Apr 30, 2013

Wild Voice of the North

by Sally Carrighar

This book seems at first to be all about one woman's search for lemmings in Alaska, but it ends up being mostly about a dog. Sally Carrighar spent many years living in the North studying the wildlife in order to write books about them. Here she describes how she tried to find elusive lemmings during a year when their population was very low, and how during her work observing them she came into contact with a remarkable husky dog named Bobo. The dog was charismatic leader of a local pack until overthrown by another dog during a terrible fight when they all turned against him. He barely survived, and by a twist of fate Carrighar ended up nursing him back to health in her home even though she feared he would end her lemming experiment by eating all the study animals.

She was surprised to find that the dog seemed (after his initial uncontrollable excitement) to understand that he was to leave the little rodents alone, and slowly came to build a rapport with the dog. He was never very demonstrative or playful, but had his dignity and many characteristics she attributed to wolf blood in his heritage. For most of the book she talks about her relationship with Bobo, how she gained his trust and learned to communicate with him, and his eventual forays out into the community to try and win back his place as pack leader. As she describes it the dog had a very vivid intelligence and strong personality, and the book reminded me of Moobli.

I did wish for a bit more about the lemmings. I cringed a bit inside to read her affirmation of strange behaviors everyone mistakenly attributed to these little animals- that they perform mass suicide by running into the sea and drowning (or running off cliffs), and that they fall from the sky or can fly- she even was shown tracks in the middle of an airfield that seemed to start in the middle of nowhere. Carrighar came up with a theory about the supposed mass drownings (now proven to be a hoax) but had no explanation for the mysterious tracks.

I enjoyed her descriptions of life in Nome, some of the people she knew, and various dogs. She also muses about what it means to be a writer, and what the work of researching wildlife is like- particularly difficult when most people didn't take her studies of "mice" or "rats" as they were often mistakenly called- seriously at all.

A good read!

Rating: 3/5 ........ 191 pages, 1953

Apr 29, 2013

The Eye Book

by Dr. Seuss
illustrated by Joe Mathieu

I never saw a Dr. Seuss book as a board book before, and it works perfectly in this format. I'm also mostly familiar with Dr. Seuss books illustrated by the man himself, which are most of the ones I grew up with in my mother's collection (and have re-gathered to put on my own kids' shelves). So this one was a bit different for me. It has cute illustrations that show different ways a boy and his companion (in this case a bunny) use their eyes to see stuff. The rabbit and boy both have large, exaggerated eyes, but not so much to be goofy. My daughter really likes this book.

Rating: 3/5 ........ 22 pages, 1968

Apr 28, 2013


by Frank LeGall
illustrated by Flore Balthazar

I was tempted by a shelf of graphic novels at the library the other day, and brought half a dozen home. This one about a cat looked really cute, but I found it disappointing. Miss Annie, the star character, is a five-month-old kitten. Bored inside the house, she engages in some normal kitty mischief (knocking things off the desk, unraveling a ball of yarn) and makes friends with a mouse. She really longs to go outside, and when finally allowed is dismayed to find that the big wide world is not just freedom to roam and do whatever you want. There are dangers, and some other cats she meets advise her to be cautious and follow certain rules. The book ends with Miss Annie anticipating going back outside after dark to meet up with a white cat for a nighttime adventure.

I'm sure this book would appeal to young readers, especially cat-lovers, but for me it just didn't have enough. The pictures are cute, but very simple. There's no interesting perspective angles or linework, not even very engaging expressions. The storyline is also pretty simplistic and ends right when I felt things were starting to get a little interesting. Obviously the book has several sequels, but I didn't feel like it needed to be more than one volume; it would have given the story a better arc and more closure to have it continue further before cutting off.

Oh well.

Rating: 2/5 ........ 40 pages, 2010

more opinions:
Library Elf Designs
Through the Looking Glass
Wandering Librarians
Comics Worth Reading

Apr 27, 2013

crossing a few off

I thought I'd get a bit more organized and note which books of my TBR lists I've actually read. So today I went back through those posts and marked all the read books with strikethrough, and linked each title to its respective review. I marked off more than I'd expected to, but fewer than I'd hoped! I think usually I end up finally reading these books because I come across them at the library or a book sale and remember they're on my list, so pick them up. But I have so much on hand to read I rarely go out seeking for a particular title because it's on the list. I ought to, though. I'd probably get through it so much faster that way!

Little Bo-Peep

by Tracey Campbell Pearson

This short baby book illustrates a familiar nursery rhyme by turning it into a little storyline about a child who should be sleeping but drops her stuffed toys (sheep) out of the crib and then cries until mom and dad come to retrieve them for her. It's simple, clever and effective.

I've seen another one that featured the rhyme Diddle diddle dumpling/my son John in the same fashion. I like how it makes old-time rhymes something more familiar, applicable to a child's own life.

Rating: 3/5 ........ 14 pages, 2004

Apr 24, 2013

Chicka Chicka Boom Boom

by Bill Martin Jr. and John Archambault

In this fun little book, the letters of the alphabet dance up the trunk of a tree singing out about who will get there first, is there enough room? I'll meet you there! Telling of their little adventure with a singsong chant introduces all the letters in order, making it a fun way for kids to become familiar with the alphabet. At the end the tree can't support the weight of all the letters and they fall down in a big pile (boom! boom!) My toddler just loves seeing that last picture with the jumble of letters, she'll often insist on turning to it before we finish the rhymes on the previous pages. A silly book full of bright colors, bold simple shapes and plenty of fun. One of my daughter's favorites.

Rating: 3/5 ........ 14 pages, 1989

Apr 22, 2013

The Biography of a Silver Fox

by Ernest Thompson Seton

This Seton book tells the life story of a beautiful, rare melanistic phase of red fox with unusually dark fur. Like most animal stories it starts with the fox's childhood, shows how he grows up and learns the ways of wild foxes. Much of the story is about his evasions of man's attempts to trap him, and of dogs that hunt him, especially one particular hound. There's also an interesting bit about a deer. The dark fox happens upon a fawn hidden in the grass one day, and is surprised because where he lives deer are rare, so he's never seen one. The doe attacks him with ferocity, and when she runs across him again later in the story, her aggressiveness this time is good fortune for him.

The fox becomes noted in the local community for his beautiful dark fur, and is a particular target for trappers and small boys alike who try to catch him over and over again. He finds a mate and raises cubs, and the last few chapters describe a particularly long hunt in which he must flee for his life from not one but two packs of hounds (he escapes one group to run into another in a different area far from home) then finally when exhausted is tracked by his nemesis the loud-voiced hound dog. Happily the fox escapes with his life (I won't tell you how though, in case you read the book- it's quite a dramatic scene!) which is not always the case at the end of Seton's animal stories.

My copy of this book is an older edition as pictured above, but I do like the cover of this one, which shows the notable dark fox standing next to his mate with the more common red fur coat. As always I really enjoyed the artwork in the book; Seton was an accomplished wildlife artist and illustrated all his own stories. There are beautiful plates of drawings (I cannot quite tell if these are paintings which have been reproduced in black-and-white, or etchings, or very fine pencil drawings. If they were originally paintings I would dearly like to see the works in color!) and the margins are decorated all over with line drawings in his remarkably spare, descriptive style. Some of these are purely academic showing poses or footprints of the animals, others are more humorous, all wonderful to look at.

I didn't find the story quite as amusing and engaging as the prior collection I read, but it's still a very good book and one that will have a permanent place in my collection. Curiously, I read in the little forward that Seton published this book at the same time that Charles Roberts published his story Red Fox. Seton defended the case that some of the incidents in the lives of the foxes in these two books were very similar, saying that Neither has read the other's story and This means simply that we have independently learned of traits and adventures that were common to the Foxes of New Brunswick, New England, and farther west. I happen to have a copy of Roberts' Red Fox and have read it a few times myself, but I don't recall any particular adventures the two books have in common. I'm curious now to re-read Red Fox yet again and see if I can pick out the episodes that other readers noticed similarities in, so long ago!

Rating: 3/5 ........ 218 pages, 1909

Apr 21, 2013

Are You a Cow?

by Sandra Boynton

Silly illustrations of animals ask the reader's identity as you go through this little book: are you a cow? perhaps a pig? and so on. They get a bit more ridiculous as you near the end- a bear with sunglasses and a big cheesy grin, a chicken upside-down on the page (my kid gets a big kick out of that one). Finally insisting you're not a penguin and then the final statement: you must be you. Isn't that great! It's simple, cute and fun. What more could a toddler want?

Rating: 3/5 ........ 14 pages, 2010

Apr 20, 2013

The Unlikely Ones

by Mary Brown

This is a curious fantasy story I found picking up books at random in a secondhand shop one day. It's got the usual fantasy elements: knights and dragons, talking beasts, witches and unicorns and ladies in distress. But the story is rather unique. It's about a girl so ugly she always wears a mask, and a group of animals she can communicate with, all held captive by a witch. They escape when villagers form a mob against the witch, and then must embark on a journey to learn how to rid themselves of a curse she left on them.

Each of the characters- the woman, a cat, crow, toad, goldfish and kitten- has a stone (or jewel?) embedded in its flesh, that torments it. On the journey meet up with a unicorn who has a broken horn, and a knight in rusty armor, also cursed by the witch. They each have to face a particular trial that only the individual can overcome, and find a way to rid themselves of the stones.

Unfortunately I don't remember too much more about the book. I recall liking the characters and the unique storyline, but it got rather tedious how much the characters kept bemoaning their fate and feeling sorry for themselves. I don't recall the ending at all now, and I'm wondering how a goldfish got carried around on a journey- in a bowl? I'm curious enough to seek out the book again. I think I'd like to try a few more by this author, as well. Anyone read her works?

Rating: 3/5 ....... 432 pages, 1987

more opinion:
So Many Books
Poisoned Rationality

Apr 19, 2013

Baby ABC

by Deborah Donenfeld

This is one of my daughter's favorite books right now, probably because she just loves looking at photographs of other babies and is fascinated with her own belly button. The babies are all pictured just in their diapers (except when the illustrated word calls for a piece of clothing) with cute pudgy tummies and belly buttons galore. We get stalled on nearly every page as she pokes the babies' tummies with glee and exclaims "belly! belly!" over and over. Each picture illustrates a letter of the alphabet. The only color on the page is the item the baby holds or wears matching the featured letter (yellow boots for B, blue socks for S, and so on). In contrast the baby himself is black-and-white, which makes the pictures full of interesting contrasts. They're all really cute, too.

Rating: 4/5 ........ 28 pages, 2013

Lives of the Hunted

by Ernest Thompson Seton

This is a delightful collection of animal stories from what is quickly becoming one of my favorite, hard-to-find authors. I have a handful of his books, purchased at a dear price on a ridiculous splurge at a used bookstore, one which I've never yet regretted. My copy itself would be valuable if it weren't in such miserable condition. It's a hardbound first edition, and even though the spine is loosening, the pages wrinkled and the entire book swollen with long-ago moisture damage, I can still feel the rich texture of the fine paper that was used, and enjoy the numerous drawings and illustrations.

The stories are engaging and informative. They are about animals, comprised from true events Seton observed (in a few cases he even includes himself in the stories) and while revealing a lot about wildlife behavior and animal nature, they are also just darn good stories in and of themselves. Seton was a very good storyteller. Sometimes the tales reflect their times, in ways that might be upsetting to some readers. For example, in a story about bears in Yellowstone park, the author has no qualms telling how garbage was routinely dumped in a large open pile, and people seemed pleased that the bears would gather here to eat. Even when they recognized one particular bear cub was sickly from eating trash, they blamed the mother bear for allowing him to eat whatever he chose, rather than taking responsibility themselves for giving the bears access to garbage!

There's a story about a bighorn ram who leads a determined hunter in a pursuit that lasted- according to Seton's account- several months. There's a charming story about a mother blue-winged teal who must lead her ducklings a fair distance over land to their first water source when the pond near her nest dries up. The chapter about kangaroo rats was mostly the author's observations of one he captured and kept in a large box with dirt to tunnel in, as well as digging up its nest to see the layout of the tunnels. I enjoyed the story about a sparrow who was raised by canaries, resulting in some confusing behavior. There are two stories that feature dogs and coyotes. The first was about a rather foolish dog who was teased by wild coyotes; the second about a poor coyote pup who was captured and tormented in every way thinkable by children and grown men alike until she escaped. Having learned all the hurts mankind was capable of inflicting, this coyote was particularly wise when she finally made her own way in the wild and raised a family of even smarter coyotes (not without difficulty!) Her story was my favorite of the lot.

Rating: 4/5 ....... 360 pages, 1901

more opinions:
The Locavore Hunter
anyone else?

Apr 18, 2013

Through Animals' Eyes

True Stories from a Wildlife Sanctuary 
by Lynn Marie Cuny

 As always, I enjoy reading stories about wild animals. This book tells some stories from the Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation center in Texas. Like other organizations of its kind, the WRR treats injured wildlife, cares for orphaned animals, releases back into the wild those it can successfully rehabilitate, and gives a permanent home to those it can't. It's not open to the public nor does it use animals in educational talks and the like, so the creatures are mostly protected from public view.

The animals in the stories include baby deer, raccoons, infant squirrels, young bears, pumas and bobcats, coyotes and many various birds. There are also lots of more exotic animals rescued from illegal pet trade, who find a permanent home at the sanctuary including many monkeys and a unique kinkajou. I liked the story about the emu who made efforts to find a group of birds at the sanctuary that would accept his company (no other emus being present). There was also a very touching story about an injured fox that was treated and released after recovery. Her fur had grown back in a darker color in large patches and the staff was surprised to find upon her release that not only was her mate waiting after several long months of separation, but he seemed to see nothing amiss in her new appearance. I also liked the one about a vulture who couldn't fly but would climb to the top of a tree every day for the vantage point. In a strong windstorm one day the vulture got blown out of the tree and everyone was surprised when a week later the vulture reappeared, having walked back to its new home. From then on it carefully climbed down from its lookout tree whenever the wind arose!

There's nothing particularly outstanding about the writing or insights here, but I enjoyed the animal stories regardless. It was an easy read, I got through it in one day. And the photographs are pretty good, too.

  Rating: 3/5 ........ 149 pages, 1998

Apr 17, 2013

Hill Country Harvest

by Hal Borland

After something awful (see the most recent abandoned book) there is fortunately a good read! I really enjoyed this one. With a voice that reminds me of Bernd Heinrich, though not quite so rich, Hal Borland describes life in the countryside. Mostly the essays contain his observances of nature and the behavior of wild things, from small rodents to birds, deer, foxes and other animals that cross his path. The nature of wood from certain trees. The traditions of country living. Comparisons between how things are done in the city, as opposed to his farm life. Simple little things, like the description of the sound of rain falling on various surfaces. How fog makes everything look different. How he lets nature take its course on his hillsides, when others urge him to spray against disease or pests among his trees (he doesn't). I found much to like and muse over in this book.

The book was published in the late sixties, and some of Borland's views reflect that. He describes seeing the destruction of a local river ecosystem over the course of a decade, due to human development and interference. He reminisces with a friend on how winters don't seem as severe as they used to, and they surmise that the earth is warming up because of exposed blacktop, and physical heat rising from houses! Other speculations are more removed, such as his curiosity on the origins of old sayings. He picks out dozens from Cervantes, notes that they are also found in Chaucer and Shakespeare, wonders if those long-ago writers were geniuses who invented the phrases, or just captured what was already popular and familiar?

Sometimes his disparaging comments about his wife's intelligence insulted me, other times his complaints seemed petty, and the jokes often fell flat. But the majority of the book is nature-writing at its best (at least for me) so those were small matters to gloss over, the rest enjoyed very much.

Rating: 4/5 ......... 377 pages, 1967

Apr 15, 2013

The Giraffe

by Marie Nimier

I'm writing something about this book so that hopefully you will never read it. It's that awful and for once I have no reservations saying so. Well, the writing itself is not terrible, in fact it's rather well-written but the content I found very distasteful and upsetting. It's about a troubled young man who becomes caretaker in a zoo, of a juvenile female giraffe recently caught from the wild. Right from the start it's obvious that this young man has disturbing fantasies, at first about his co-workers and random people he sees in public places, but also about animals and eventually becoming focused on the giraffe. His behavior is eccentric and his interactions with other people consist mainly of avoidance, spying and subtly manipulating them. With animals it's even worse as he likes to win their affections and then torment them. When it started to get sexual and violent I had to quit reading.

There were some interesting bits when he found a half-finished painting of a previous giraffe that had been brought to the zoo, and periodically would make up stories about that long-ago young giraffe travelling from African with its caretaker. I found that part interesting and almost continued reading just to follow that secondary storyline (which would have been easy enough to pick out, as it was printed in a different font).

At first the book also reminded me of quite a few others which I liked far better. Something about the nature of the story at first made me think of works by David Garnett and I rather thought at first the novella would be something like The Zoo Where You're Fed to God, but nope, this one went far beyond. In a way it was also reminiscent of Kafka, with the strange situations but I realized soon that it was the wandering way in which the young man told his story, and the odd circumstances he created that caused this illusion. His meandering inner dialogues made me think of Holden Caulfield for a brief spell, as well, but that similarity soon wore off as well.

No, this book is better left alone, unopened. Not my taste at all.

Abandoned ........ 199 pages, 1995

Apr 11, 2013

stacks of books and a red rubber pony

Because I know you like to look at books. Or you wouldn't be here, right? And finally, after moving about five months ago, I have organized my bookshelves! They were all a jumble, just put up any-which-way when unpacking from boxes. Here's some of the sorting that went on.

First I pulled all the keepers off the shelves. The books behind the red pony, on the floor and three shelves just to the right behind his butt, are all unread books. Yikes! The lowest middle shelf is juvenile fiction I keep accessible for my daughter, the next bottom shelf (going right) is baby board books for my toddler, and the last bottom shelf in corner is oversize coffee-table type books.

Then I sorted them into two main heaps: fiction and non-. Asked my kid which she wanted to "play" with- she was making stacks of books into stairs for her slinky to walk down. She said the fiction, because guessed there would be more books in that pile. And she was right, I think! Here on the floor are all the fiction, with non-fiction shelved again to the far right, organized more-or-less by subject.
That was it, I took a break for a day. This afternoon took all the fiction books and sorted them into piles by first letter of author's last name, and then further sorted each stack as I shelved them, until all were alphabetized.
It was quite a task! In the process I also dusted and flipped most of the shelves (they start to bow downwards under the weight of books so I turn the adjustable ones over periodically). I found in the sorting that I have a lot of books whose author name starts with S. And not a single one with I or Q. And only one book by a Z author- can you guess which?

I also found that I miss my books. Handling them all and turning a few pages here and there made me really want to sit down and read them all. But I have had little time for reading this year (as I'm sure you've noticed by the frequency of baby-book posts here). I did however note a lot of authors I want to read more of, and am surprised I haven't yet. Must find a way to remedy that! They are:

Marion Zimmer Bradley- only read Mists of Avalon and always wanted to try more
Orson Scott Card (the Ender books- I still haven't read the two most recent ones)
Pat Conroy- only have read Prince of Tides and must read more!
Bryce Courtenay- only have read Power of One and want to read more!
Barbara Hambly- want to read more of her stuff beyond the Winterlands series (which I loved)
Richard Kennedy- did he ever write anything besides Amy's Eyes? must find out
Gregory McGuire- liked very much Wicked and the stepsister book, I know there's a lot more!
Neville Shute- only read A Town Like Alice, must try more
Barbara Kingsolver- loved Animal, Vegetable, Miracle and Prodigal Summer and Poisonwood Bible; I suspect I'll like most everything she's written.

that all sounds very repetitive- must have more!- but it's the prevailing sentiment about books!

And then there's quite a few authors that are out-of-print or not popular (at least, not in my library) so I keep them in the back of my mind for hunting in used bookshops, to see if I can make more discoveries: David Stephen, May Sarton, Richard Balch, Will James, and Rumer Godden begin that list.

And has Elizabeth Marshall Thomas written any more books about prehistoric peoples? because even though I found lots of criticism on the accuracy of her depictions in those, I still enjoyed them a lot...

Apr 9, 2013

Now I Am Big

by Stephen Krensky
illustrated by Sara Gillingham

This book caught my attention just because the illustrations are so unique. With a limited palette of red, yellow, blue and gray plus shades created by overlaying the colors with small, closely spaced stripes or dots, it has a very retro feel. It has a nice message, too. Shows a boy comparing activities he can do now to similar ones he did as a small toddler. From his height to his mobility to overcoming shyness and interacting with other kids on the playground. I like the page that shows his involvement in the garden: as a toddler he watches from his mother's arms while she waters sunflowers; as an older child he helps dig holes to plant seeds. It's a very charming book showing a child being proud of his accomplishments and recognizing how his abilities change as he grows up.

Rating: 3/5 ........ 12 pages, 2012

Apr 7, 2013

Edges of the Earth

by Richard Leo

This is an adventure story about a man who leaves his New York city apartment and takes his girlfriend into the Alaskan wilderness. Enamoured of the wide open spaces, he throws himself into the difficulties of living in the bush with little reserve. It's readily apparent that he's clueless from the start at how to make a living out there; I was skeptical at first how long they would last and kept expecting some big disaster. Living without electricity, running water, or a neighbor for miles, Leo exulted in the solitude and closeness to wild things, but his girlfriend (who became his wife) couldn't handle the rough living and deprivations. Eventually (not much of a spoiler) they separated and she remained in town while their son lived mostly with him. I was pretty astonished at this man's tenacity and ingenuity. He built a log cabin by himself, learned to run a dog team, tried climbing mountains. Rather slipshod most of the time, but did it regardless. My favorite part of the book was reading about how his son grew up close to nature. And I was waiting to see how long it would take him to hold out, living on beans and rice (imported) because he didn't have the skills or desire to kill game for food. In many ways this story reminded me a lot of Christopher McCandless, Into the Wild. Foolhardy and ignorant perhaps, but determined to make a go at living his dream, and this guy actually did it.

I realized while writing this post that I've read his later book, Way Out Here, where you can see how well he adapted to living in the wilderness and how his son grew up in the cabin. I think personally I liked the second book better.

Rating: 3/5 ........ 384 pages, 1991

Apr 4, 2013

Dare complete!

I made it all the way this time, finishing the Double Dog Dare in April. I'm actually still reading the last two books I picked out from the many (a hundred-plus) books that line my to-be-read shelves. I read a total of thirteen books, and abandoned two. Of those fifteen books, seven were put up for swap, six shelved with my permanent collection, and one doesn't count because I borrowed it from the library (it had been sitting waiting to be read at my bedside for weeks, so I figured it would count). The last book I'm not sure if it disqualifies me or not; when I traveled recently to visit my family, my sister (who also traveled to get there) had brought along a book she noticed was on my TBR list, for me to borrow. I read it during the vacation.

So the Dare really only cleared seven book-spaces off my shelf, and since a lot are stacked on the floor right now, it's not a visible difference. But I really discovered some treasures I didn't know I had. My favorite was The Loon Feather. Close behind was Bodach the Badger. The rest were pretty good, too.

Thanks to C.B. James for hosting the Dare again this year! I'm glad I did it, but anxious now to get to the library. I've seen lots of interesting books on the shelves when I take my kids there, the past three months, but refrained from borrowing any. Until now!

Apr 3, 2013

Born to Run

by Christopher McDougall

The book is about distance running, and a native tribe that lives in a hidden canyon in Mexico. They are noted for their skill in running barefoot through the desert, traveling miles with ease. Interested in running  further, faster and with less injuries, the author started researching great distance runners and learned about the Tarahumara. He traveled to Mexico to find them and some noted runners who had learned their methods.

His story was very interesting but a bit jumpy; it kept going back and forth between telling the author's personal experience in traveling, searching for the tribe, meeting up with other runners and being involved in running events. Then it would switch to telling about a runner he had met, and past events and for a moment I'd be thrown off when the narrative went back into the present. The first half of the book was all about people; runners learning from the Tarahumara and runners coming to compete with them. The litany of names got a bit boring although some of the characters were quite colorful and eccentric.

What I really enjoyed was the last part of the book, which had more to say about the logistics of running, as it were. Diet, endurance, technique, but mostly about shoes and how they don't (according to his research) really help our feet at all. He claims that modern shoes with all their fancy features do nothing to prevents sports injuries and could even cause them. I found this all very interesting. He started running barefoot himself to see if it would improve things, and had good results.

I only wished to read more about the Tarahumara themselves, there wasn't much mention of them beyond their running ability and reclusive nature. The parts about ultrarunners and their crazy 100-mile races over mountain terrain really took me aback. I had no idea people did such things. And the parts about how human beings seem to have evolved physically to be endurance runners, including an experience with a native African tribe running down an antelope was very intriguing.

I first noticed this book on Reading Through Life and Sophisticated Dorkiness. I really read this one thanks to my older sister. She noticed it had gotten on my TBR list twice, and loaned me her copy. Thanks, Sis!

Rating: 3/5 ........ 287 pages, 2009

more opinions:
The Blue Bookcase

Heart of a Shepherd

by Rosanne Parry

Young boy is the son of a rancher, with four older brothers all gone off to school or enlisted. His father is on active duty in Iraq as well. He struggles to keep the ranch running with his grandparents, worrying all the while about his father's absence and safety. Their mom seems to be out of the picture. I thought I would like this kid, with his soft heart for the ranch animals, but I found it hard to connect to the story for some reason. The older brothers were confusing hard to keep straight when I failed to find them interesting, and the strong religious bent got in the way of my enjoying the story. I was actually disappointed when I lost interest. I'm sure it's a great book, it just wasn't for me.

Once again, this was a novel I was tempted to try due to a glowing review. I have to tell myself to have more reservations about trying YA or Jfiction anymore. More often than not I find myself bored or disappointed- I'm just not the target audience at this point! Please see what some more appreciative readers had to say below.

Abandoned ........ 161 pages, 2009

more opinions:
Read to Me
Abby the Librarian
Dawn Reviews Books

Apr 1, 2013

The House in the Night

by Susan Marie Swanson
illustrated by Beth Krommes

Wonderful kid's book with vivid black-and-white illustrations that look like they were done as scratchboard or woodcuts, highlighted with areas of yellow color that emphasize things mentioned in the text. The storyline shows a girl coming home with her family at the end of the day, getting ready for bed, and reading a book with a bird in it. The bird flies out of the pages and she goes on the bird's back for a little adventure in the nighttime sky. Then the book traces its steps back through the window into the bedroom, shows mom tucking the now-sleeping child in, with the phrases repeating themselves in reverse even as the pictures show slightly different events. Personally I don't care for the illustrations, the people's faces are very flat, the animals' heads are oddly shaped ovals that look strange to me. But the complexity of the environment in the pictures are very well done and make this book stand out. All the illustrations, whether showing the interior of the house or the wide landscape outside, are full of little details, figures, objects of daily life and so on. The patterns of different clothing. The shapes of various trees in a landscape. The forms of flowers covering a hillside. My daughter loves pointing out all sorts of items she recognizes: socks, book, a cat, little cars on the road, etc. Every time we read the book there's something new she discovers. This book won a Caldecott Medal in 2009.

Rating: 4/5 ........ 36 pages, 2008