Jun 21, 2013

Chi's Sweet Home

vol. 5
by Konami Kanata

Cuteness continues as Chi gets better acquainted with her neighbors, struggles to find a good night's sleep, snoops around daddy's office (resulting in a hilarious encounter with a roll of sticky tape), is introduced to a cat brush (which brings back dim memories of her mother's attentions) and a cat door- which she stubbornly resists using until falling through it by accident! She has some more hilarious interactions with the little boy of the family, and goes exploring further abroad in her neighborhood, with plenty of little adventures. She meets several different cats, including one who seems to recognize her from a family resemblance, and the reader discovers on the last page, where a map is shown, just how close Chi is to her original home (which she doesn't even remember). It makes me curious to see if in a future volume she meets up with her mother once again.

Edited note: Oops! Somehow I forgot to publish this one before writing about book six, so it's out of order.

Rating: 4/5 ........ 146 pages, 2007

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Jun 15, 2013

City Farmer

by Lorraine Johnson

I saw this book on a library display and just found something really intriguing about the stocky carrot and grungy letters that form the title. As you can probably guess, it's about gardening in city spaces, but not a personal approach like Garden Anywhere. Instead, City Farmer is full of facts and figures about how various cities throughout North America have embraced (or not, in some cases) urban gardening efforts. The book discusses how people have become disconnected to the roots of their food sources, how historically cities have produced their own food, and methods that can been implemented to make urban gardening more widespread. The pages are stuffed full of examples and suggestions, everything from city-government-sanctioned official organizations to guerrilla gardening done in secret. The author even describes how she kept backyard chickens knowing it was against city code (it was my favorite chapter). There are cautions and recommendations, suggestions on methods to get around the lack of space, polluted soil, buildings casting too much shade, skeptical neighbors, and so on. It all boils down to one big dose of encouragement: you can grow something to eat, anywhere, if you really want to. Or find it. Another small section of the book is about harvesting food from public spaces, like nut trees or dandelions from public parks, something I smiled at because just yesterday I took my kids on a walk in a path between backyards and we picked enough mulberries from branches overhanging the public path to make a pie. It's all about people coming together to make something new, and the benefits that arise alongside the vegetables from the soil. I think this sentence from one of the later pages sums it all up well: Gardeners without land find land without gardeners. And make do. And grow something wonderful.

Rating: 3/5 ........ 250 pages, 2010

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Jun 13, 2013

Chi's Sweet Home

vol 9
by Konami Kanata

I think this is my favorite Chi book so far. In the first few chapters, Chi faces one frustration after another as her human family tries to keep her safe; first by not allowing her outside, and then by attempting to walk her on a leash (you can guess how well that goes!) Meanwhile Cocchi gets steamed at waiting so long for Chi to meet up with him for their usual playtimes, and when Chi finally escapes the leash she gets annoyed waiting for him, after he's gone off in search of her. They are overjoyed to encounter each other again and more interesting developments occur as Cocchi lets Chi see more of what his daily routine is like as a stray, and she slowly begins to comprehend how different his life actually is from hers. After an exhausting night spent roaming in search of food, Chi and her street-wise friend finally end up back at home again, where Cocchi gets one shock after another as he sees how pampered his little friend is in her apartment. The best part of this book though, was when Cocchi runs into Chi's original kitty family, the mother still calling for her lost one. He's intrigued by how much one of the kittens looks like Chi herself, doesn't quite get it yet though the reader does! Bonus material in the back shows a "Lost" poster from Chi's original family with her picture on it; I'm anticipating a reunion with her mom and siblings soon. The next volume comes out later this summer and my eight-year-old daughter and I are both really looking forward to reading it.

Rating: 4/5 ........ 146 pages, 2012

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Jun 12, 2013

Chi's Sweet Home

vol 8
by Konami Kanata

In this eighth volume about a kitten's little adventures, Chi continues to grow and make discoveries with complete charm. She finds by accident that she can land on her feet from a fall, is encouraged by Cocchi to climb trees and leap from heights, practices stalking (a frog), lazes in the sunshine with Yohei (so endearing) and unfortunately gets an eye infection and has to wear a cone. Chi finds this extremely frustrating but quickly learns to navigate and is proud of (momentarily) solving the problem of this new obstacle she drags around with her. My favorite parts of the book were her explorations with kitten-friend Cocchi again, where they find new places to hide, have a run-in with a dog, and get trapped in a neighbor's shed. Interestingly, Chi is often reminded in this book that she is, in fact, a cat. She's puzzled by this and adamant that she's human like her adopted family, even though Cocchi points out and shows by example the many feline traits and abilities Chi has. These little books always have some bonus material in the back and volume 8 has the best yet: an origami of Chi's head with instructions on how to fold it. I'm going to make a photocopy and see if my eight-year-old can fold the kitty face.

Rating: 3/5 ......... 146 pages, 2011

Jun 11, 2013

Worms Eat My Garbage

by Mary Appelhof

This awesome little book (with terrible cover art) is the definitive manual about keeping worms for vermicomposting. All of the gardening books I've read that mention worm farming point to this book, so I finally waited my turn to borrow it from the library. It's got all the basic information you need to set up a worm-composting system, and more than that, too. What kind of container to make or buy, what kind of bedding to use, how to set it up, where to keep it, how to maintain temperature and moisture, what kind of environment the worms need, how to manage the system depending on if you want worms for fishing bait or good black compost or both (or even if you want to raise worms for sale) and so on. What you can put in your vermiculture box, and what you can expect to get out of it. Charts and weights and volumes of input and output. Even some details on the biology of worms and different species. Lots of reference material in the back for further reading in whatever direction you want to take this interest. This is one of those books I found so useful on the first reading I'm already looking for a copy to add to my personal library. I'm ready now, armed with what it's taught me, to order my own worms (got the box built weeks ago). Hopefully if all goes well there will soon be posts on my gardening blog about my own worm bin and its workings! Thanks in part to this book which made me realize it's not that hard, just get started.

Rating: 4/5 ....... 162 pages, 1997

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Jun 5, 2013

Chi's Sweet Home

vol 7
by Konami Kanata

Little kitten Chi continues her escapades. She romps around in the dark at night, following her new kitty companion Cocchi. The wiser street kitty is often cross at Chi's antics and clueless questions, but he tolerates her presence and eventually finds comfort in her company as well. When the kittens stray too far, the Bear Cat (ever a friendly mentor) guides them to safety. At home, Chi constantly causes kitty mischief. She's intrigued by birds on the tv screen, wants desperately to catch the new goldfish out of its bowl, eats fondu for the first time, and unfortunately, gets sick. I found it touching that during her illness, the Bear Cat and Cocchi appear at the window, peering in anxiously to see what has become of their young friend. I'm eager to continue onto the next volume and read more about this endearing little cat.

Rating: 4/5 ......... 142 pages, 2010

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Jun 4, 2013

Chi's Sweet Home

vol. 6
by Konami Kanata

Kitty cuteness continues. I haven't had much time for reading of late, but these kitten-powered graphic novels are perfect for some light entertainment and warm fuzzy feelings and good laughs. In volume six, Chi gets in trouble for tracking mud through the house, is upset at being restricted from accessing certain objects in the household (hot iron, plants she destroys, etc), is entertained by packaging when new items arrive in the home, plays and squabbles with Yohei (her little boy sibling), discovers the annoyance and -paradoxically- delight of the vacuum cleaner, suffers the indignity of wearing her first collar, and discovers the great outdoors after dark. Most intriguingly, she meets another kitten who is apparently a stray cat and whose ways puzzle and delight the sheltered Chi.  The other kitten, named Cocchi, is annoyed by Chi's insistence in following or playing with him. Makes for some great kitty entertainment!

Rating: 3/5 ........ 146 pages, 2009

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