Aug 28, 2014

Dog Days

by Jon Katz

Another book about Katz and the dogs on his farm. He's published so many, I'm not sure if I'm reading them in order or missing one that came before this, so there might be a gap as the dogs move in and out of his life.

At the point when Dog Days was written, Katz lived on his farm in upstate New York with a border collie, two labrador retrievers, a flock of sheep, a few chickens, a barn cat, handful of donkeys and several other animals. Some come to live on the farm through the course of the book: a giant steer that is incredibly gentle, another border collie who needs rescuing, a surprise newcomer when one of his donkeys gives birth. Katz is careful about finding balance among the livestock and pets on his farm- he usually doesn't take on animals in need of rescue, but with Izzy gets into another border collie training project. Which is quite different from the prior experience he had with Orson. Both because this is a different dog, and Katz is in many ways a different person now. It's amusing to me that Katz was still viewed as an outsider by many in his farming community- because he didn't sell livestock for a living, and kept animals that were "useless" such as the donkeys. Yet his neighbors often called on him for help when they needed to find or corral wayward animals- his border collie Rose having excellent problem-solving skills in this regard. None of them had working dogs like her, it seems.

He also showed me how the labs could be so lovable. I admit when I read his previous book, his descriptions of the labrador retrievers bored me. The border collies were much more interesting characters. Yet here his labs come into their own, shining with their versatility and accepting personalities. He takes one along for physical therapy sessions and when the dog becomes very close to an elderly woman they continue to visit her for a while even when she no longer goes to the center. He notices that the other lab is a great dog and often gets left behind or goes unnoticed simply because she is so accepting of situations, but he wants to do better by her, so finds a situation where she can get the attention and exercise she needs, without taxing him more -having four dogs on the farm is more work than he can handle, it turns out. It's admirable to see someone who can admit when they've got enough, who can let a beloved pet go to a better home, and still keep the connection to them. I enjoyed this book, and want to read more by the author. He's provided plenty!

Rating: 3/5      273 pages, 2007

Aug 27, 2014

The Modern Dog

by Stanley Coren

This was a lot easier read than the last book. It covers some similar ground but is not so philosophical and doesn't delve so far into the past- instead its concern is more the present relationship that dogs have with humans. In a friendly, lighthearted manner, the book explores such topics as why dogs bond so closely to people, why so many dogs look like their owners, their significance in some religions, their canine behavior, their extraordinary sense of smell, their means of communication, the benefits of raising kids with a dog in the home and much much more. It's a nice combination of anecdotal evidence and scientific fact that makes for easy, interesting reading. Things like how bereft owners have tried to clone their dogs, how dog breeds evolved as hunting methods and equipment changed, how rabies probably led to the idea of vampires, the loyalty of dogs that travel long distances to find their owners again, and why cats and dogs often misread each other's body language. I liked the inclusion of many folkloric stories such as why dogs sniff each other's tails, and the origins of the Chinese "lion dog" - the pekingese- being a love affair between a lion and a marmot (sanctioned by the Buddha who changed the lion's size). One of the most interesting chapters was about how law enforcement and courts use dogs as witnesses- with their powers of identifying scents. The methods are different from what I expected, and convincing. Also eye-opening was a personal account the author shared about an incident where he bathed his dog in tomato juice in the yard to get rid of skunk smell, with local kids looking on. One of them took photos which later got posted online with false information- as being evidence of animal cruelty! Makes you realize how easily stories can get twisted and people end up misinformed. I looked up more facts on a lot of stuff from this book- just because I'm curious to know more- and found that in at least one case, the book isn't accurate. Makes me wonder about the rest, and realize you have to read it all with some skepticism in mind.

I borrowed this one from the public library

Rating: 3/5       274 pages, 2008

Aug 23, 2014

The Wolf in the Parlor

by Jon Franklin

Jon Franklin is a science reporter, and he explores in detail "the eternal connection between humans and dogs," dwelling mostly on speculations about the past, how our species evolved together, affected each other, became so dependent on one another. Posits that our predecessors may have been so successful and out-competed or survived where other early hominids didn't, precisely because they had dogs at their side. Examines how our very senses have come to compliment each other (man and dog), how man has shaped dog breeds to his need and whim,  how dogs' social behavior meshes with ours, and so on. Through the lens of anthropology, biological and evolutionary sciences, and the very everyday experience of adding a dog to his own family- a standard poodle named Charlie. I was just as surprised as Franklin to find how little we actually know about the history of dogs, considering how close we are to them- he claims it is a truly symbiotic relationship. I was alternately intrigued and bored with his meanderings- he often goes into other topics and when the writing got philosophical I lost focus. So this is one of those cases where you have to remember that my rating systems denotes a personal response to a book, and doesn't necessarily reflect on the quality of that book. I actually thought I wasn't going to finish this one- I was skipping a lot of stuff in the first hundred pages, but then either it got better, or I started to pay more attention. Gave me a lot to think about.

Rating: 2/5      283 pages, 2009

more opinons:
The Poodle (and dog) Blog
The Dog I've Always Wanted

Aug 22, 2014

The Bus Driver

by Todd H. Doodler

The day starts with one person on the bus: the driver. He picks up two girls talking on the phone, three firemen whose truck broke down, four boys dirty from playing etc.- each page a successive number up to ten. You see them all pile on until the seats are completely full- including eight dogs carrying fleas- which makes no one happy! Then we count down from ten to one again as people (and dogs) get off the bus- but your child can practice a little math, too. Sometimes two groups of people get off at the same stop- five basketball players get off at the stadium plus the four boys, who want to watch the game. Seven nurses and six doctors get off at the hospital together- even more counting to do! It's also educational for little kids because it gets them thinking about where different people might want to go on the bus, and the purpose of their destination. The rhymes are a little awkward sometimes; I found myself rephrasing to make them smoother, and the illustrations are goofy but my kid doesn't care about that.

Rating: 3/5      20 pages, 2013

more opinions:
Journey of a Bookseller
Jean Little Library

Aug 20, 2014

Giant George

Life with the World's Biggest Dog
by Dave Nasser with Lynne Barrett-Lee

When the author and his wife started looking for a great dane puppy, they knew they wanted a big dog. But they had no idea how big George was going to get. It amused me that he was the runt of his litter, and ended up being the largest one! He tipped the scales at two hundred and forty-five pounds, standing four feet at the shoulder. He had to have his own queen-sized mattress to sleep on, and wouldn't fit in their regular car, only a truck. He liked to ride around in a golf cart. You would think living with such a large animal would be problematic, but aside from his huge appetite, and the inconvenience that his head easily reaches every countertop, the dog is actually mild-mannered and very gentle. He was very close to his family, in fact would get extremely anxious if left alone. It was touching to read how bonded George became with his owners, and how he helped them get through some tough times. When their veterinarian made comments that George was larger than any other dog he'd seen, they looked into it and friends suggested they try for the world record, since the dog currently holding the title had recently died. The part about how they had to apply for the Guinness World Record was interesting, and I was surprised to see how passionate some people got about this- other dog owners trying for the same record going so far as to contest his measurements, some said they were exploiting their pet and posted unkindly remarks about the dog online. Of course he became famous and the family tells about taking their dog to visit schools, veterinary conferences and other events. Many people travelled to see him- it was difficult to fly George anywhere as he didn't fit in any commercially-made pet crates! This was a fun read.

Rating: 3/5     255 pages, 2011

more opinions:
Shannon's Book Bag

Aug 19, 2014

The Pig Who Sang to the Moon

by Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson

This book makes a very strong case for turning vegan. In it, Masson looks closely at the emotional lives of common farm animals: the pig, cow, goat, sheep, chicken. Also ducks and geese. He presents evidence that these animals are quite sensitive, amiable and sociable creatures, which made them easy to domesticate in the first place. They make friends, often from other species. They get lonely, mourn the loss of their young or companions, show fear at approaching death. They display gratitude and trust towards those who treat them kindly. They like music.They can dream. One scientist, Masson informs me, says that even bees dream (about flowers). Yes, the book is full of anecdotes but there is also scientific evidence presented of how certain animals' brains have very similar functions to ours. Of course they can feel: emotions are more basic than logical thought (and so many animals display that, too). So, the point of it all is that these animals have the same basic needs and desires we have: to live comfortably, be with their companions, raise their offspring. Knowing that should influence how we treat them. I was aware before of the awful conditions pigs, chickens and cows are usually kept in, but did not know other things for example how goose down is stripped from living birds (kept in crowded conditions) so that they can grow more feathers and be stripped again. It is so painful for them they often go into shock, and after four or five "pluckings" they die. It seems to me that sheep are goats are not treated so badly as the others, but Masson points out that we still take their young away from them, cause them stress and pain and often misunderstand or ignore their needs. Not to mention eating lambs: Mary had a little lamb / Her father shot it dead / And now it goes to school with her / Between two chunks of bread.

A tough thing, to be the child of a farmer. But the book isn't all about animal distress! Much of it is intriguing accounts of how how animals feel, the depth of their emotional lives. Other things too, like the fact that in ancient Egypt pigs were not eaten but valued for their work in agriculture- they were used to thresh grain and to plant it, too. Goats show a sense of humor. They don't actually eat tin cans but will eat the paper labels off cans, or shirts off a clothesline! Wild ducks know which ponds on private land are safe during hunting season, and will flock there the day before the season opens. How do they know? Pigs' skin and organs are so similar to humans that scientists are studying how to use them in transplants. And more. Compelling book.

Rating: 4/5      277 pages, 2003

Note: if you have written about this book on your blog, do tell me know in the comments. For some reason google blog search fails me: I get pages upon pages of results from top-name booksellers, animal-rights websites (relevant, but not what I want) and media sources, not blogs. I looked through eight pages of results without finding one normal reader's blog. Why?

Aug 17, 2014

more TBR

My list is just getting longer and longer....
While Beauty Slept by Elizabeth Blackwell - The Lost Entwife
The Ghost Map by Steven Johnson- James Reads Books
Castle Waiting by Linda Medley- Love, Laughter and a Touch of Insanity
Let the Tornado Come by Rita Zoey Chin- Bermuadonion's Weblog
California by Edan Lepucki- My Porch
Beg by Rory Freedman
A Game for Swallows by Zeina Abirached- Love, Laughter, and a Touch of Insanity
Landline by Rainbow Rowell- Things Mean a Lot
Intern by Sandeep Jauhar
Doctored by Sandeep Jauhar- Caroline Bookbiner
All My Patients Kick and Bite by Jeff Wells
Never Turn Your Back on an Angus Cow by Dr. Jan Pol
A Feathered River Across the Sky by Joel Greenberg
A Squirrel Forever by Douglas Fairbairn
Babylon's Ark by Lawrence Anthony
Second Ascent by Alison Osius
Bound by Night by Larissa Ione- Musings of  a Bookish Kitty
On Cats- Doris Lessing
Tobermory by Saki
Particularly Cats by Doris Lessing
Animals Are My Life by Eddie Straiton
Blind Corners- Geoff Tabin
A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman
The Old Age of El Magnifico by Doris Lessing

Aug 16, 2014

James Herriot

The Life of a Country Vet
by Graham Lord

James Herriot is one of my all-time favorite authors. I have all five of his books on my shelf, used to have a collection of cat stories too, until I realized that was redundant (the stories being selected from the other books). My children have a few of the picture-book versions on their shelf, too. So I was curious to read this biography when I found it at the library.

The first thing I learned was that the real Herriot is named Alfred Wight, and the real James Herriot is a footballer (soccer player)- Wight was an avid soccer fan and used the name of one of his favorite players. I read about Wight's parents and his childhood in poverty-stricken Glasgow during the 1920's. The book started to get interesting when it reached Wight's years in veterinary college. He dreamed of working with small animals- cats and dogs- but work was hard to find so he took a position in a Yorkshire practice that mainly served farmers. According to Graham Lord (who knew the man personally), Wight had always kept diaries, was an intelligent well-read man, and practiced his writing skills with dedication. He didn't get his first book published until he was in his fifties, and the big story of this book is how that amazing success came about, and then just kept growing. Wight based his stories on real life, but changed a lot of facts, names, personalities to keep characters' true identities obscured (though that didn't last- some were incensed to find how they had been portrayed, others flattered), rearranged dates to suit his narrative, used anecdotes and tales told in veterinary school, and purely invented others. In short, his books are more than fifty percent fictional. But the basis in reality is so solid that they feel true, and are so well-written, warm and funny and down-to-earth that they became wildly popular. So I was right when I shelved my collection of Herriot books among the fiction.

It was revealing to read about the struggles in Wight's life, about his personal crises and health issues, his private griefs. For me the best part of the biography were the chapters that described his experiences with the publication process, how his growing fame changed the village he lived in, how he refused to let it change his life, even when in later years fans were lining up outside his surgery door every morning for autographs. He was always kind and friendly to his readers, but got sometimes got upset at their intrusion as well. He continued working as a vet, even when he was a multimillionaire and didn't need to, and others urged him to just take up writing full-time. Being a vet was his life, writing was on the side. I admired that.

Rating: 3/5    276 pages, 1997

more opinions:
The World is Quiet Here 101
Engine Summer

Aug 15, 2014

Pip and Posy

The Little Puddle
by Axel Scheffler

A mouse and bunny friend play all day together- walking their dolls, building a city, pretending to be lions. They are having so much fun the bunny forgets to stop when he has to pee, and has an accident on the floor. His friend reassures him, helps clean up, loans some dry clothes, and they continue playing. Next time he has to go, bunny boy remembers to use the potty. And they take a bubble bath together. Cute little reminder for kids who are potty training (mine is not perfect at it yet so this was a nice book for her).

Rating: 3/5    24 pages, 2011

more opinions:
There's a Book
Read with Rosie
Kids' Book Review
Buzz Words

Aug 14, 2014

The Caged Virgin

by Ayaan Hirsi Ali

I was curious to read another book by this author after finishing Infidel; have been waiting for it to come off the library hold list. Ended up just skimming through, reading parts that caught my eye. It's a treatise on women's rights, especially in regards to how they are treated in some Islamic countries. Main topics are how women are suppressed and/or mistreated by men, arranged marriages, genital mutilation, the lack of trust and respect women are given, and their often dismal lack of education. Plus all of the social fallout from the above, in certain cultures and places in the world. And what she suggests we do about it. This is important information, but it can also be dry reading- personally I absorb information better when it is embedded in storytelling. So when the author told about several different women she assisted as a translator among recent immigrants to the Netherlands, I paid attention. When she went into moral philosophy, social criticism and plans of action, I quickly lost focus and began skipping pages. Sorry. I did notice that she included in her book advice and instructions explicit for Muslim women who wanted to run away from their family situation! Kind of a short guideline on what not to do, what to expect, how to plan. I also found interesting a section that went through the ten commandments, and gave her thoughts on each one. Also very interesting her description of the film that caused so much controversy, including the relatively short script for it. Read objectively, it did not seem as offensive as I first imagined- but I cannot really judge, as I haven't seen it. I imagine the visual has a greater impact. Likewise I can't give a firm opinion on this book, because I didn't read it all, just some pages here, some pages there. A lot of it felt repetitive to me. I very recently read her opinion on all the same topics, her stance and her personal stories regarding them, in the previous book (with a lot more detail to the stories) so I suppose that's why I couldn't stay focused here- not enough new material it seemed.

Abandoned        187 pages, 2004

more opinions: Kulna: For All of Us
anyone else?

Aug 13, 2014

Fowl Weather

by Bob Tarte

The description of a household full of pets, where two people live with over thirty animals including parrots, ducks, geese, chickens, rabbits, a few cats. Oh, and occasional wild birds that people bring over to be cared for until they can fly free. I was expecting to read mostly about what life was like with so many animals, but to my surprise it had a similar theme to the last book I read- dealing with a parent's advancing age. In this case, the onset of dementia and eventually alzheimer's. Also meddlesome neighbors, inept applicants for jobs, the search for a competent pet sitter, and many awkward moments dealing with cold weather and wading-pool duck ponds. It was curious and amusing, but only to a point. Nearly every other sentence seems to be stuffed with sarcasm and forced humor, so much that sometimes I had to stop and read a sentence over again to get what he was really saying. Maybe I was too tired, but sometimes I just wanted a straight description, without the adding joking. I was also interested to find that Tarte likes bird-watching, believes in omens and is suspicious of the supernatural when strange noises are heard at night. Those last two, with all their accompanying detail, got really old on me. And I'll give you fair warning: lots of animals die in this book. Of old age, unforseen accidents, illness, sometimes no known reason at all.

I read a previous book by this author, and saw this one at the library, thought it might be good too. He's got another one about cats, someday I'll probably get to that book.

Rating: 2/5     305 pages, 2007

more opinions:
Stay At Home Bookworm
One-Minute Book Reviews

Aug 11, 2014

The Nature of Dogs

by Mary Ludington

Another oversized book I borrowed from the public library to enjoy its pictures for a while. Begins with the author's notes about why she took up photography, her goal to photograph every dog breed, and her reasons for taking pictures of the dogs outdoors, letting them just do their thing while she recorded them with the camera.

The results are some striking images. They are all black-and-white, some with timeless look of sepia tone. I did not care for the many blurred images, which really do nothing to give you an idea of the breed's conformation or appearance. Each breed page has a bit of its history (quite interesting) and characteristics, especially in regards to how the physical traits were developed to specialize the dog in its job. For example, she says that the long loose skin folds on a basset or bloodhound's face "stir up scent" from the ground, "swishing scent particles into the oversized nostrils" to help them follow a trail. I was surprised to read that the wrinkles on a bulldog's head "functioned as gutters to divert the bull's blood" when it was historically used in bull baiting. Also interesting to read that the bull terrier was bred to have naturally upright ears when cropping was banned, and that doberman pinschers descend from a dog owned by a tax collector, Karl Friedrich Louis Doberman, who wanted a dog that would "offer protection from thieves and encourage reluctant taxpayers to pay their dues." When I read of the endearingly catlike traits of the shiba inu, including its habit of purring, yodeling and screeching instead of barking, I thought of the basenji dog (which wasn't featured). There are many other intriguing facts about sixty various dog breeds in here.

Also included are brief essays by Temple Grandin, Kevin Kling, Winona LaDuke, James Hillman and Mary Gaitskill with Peter Trachtenberg, written specifically for this book. On various things such as the keen senses dogs use, and the nature of their relationship with humans. I especially liked Winona's essay about reservation dogs, which included a native american legend about how dogs became human companions. And the final essay by Gaitskill and Trachtenberg, which imagines the marriage of a cat and dog and is formatted as an interview with each species (about the traits of the other, and what it is like to live with them) was very amusing.
You can see many more of Ludington's photographs here.

Rating: 3/5       176 pages, 2007

more opinions:
Dog Art Today
Humor Books

Aug 10, 2014

Wife in the North

by Judith O'Reilly

This book is about a woman who loved London, but her husband convinced her to move to Northumberland with two young boys. She was pregnant as well. And then he continued commuting into London, often spending weeks away. I didn't quite enjoy this book as much as I'd hoped to. A lot of it felt negative- her complaints about her husband, missing her social life in the city, trying to fit into a rural community. I could relate to the parts about being a mother and having a new baby, some of the cute things her boys said really made me smile. She also had to deal with helping her elderly parents, rennovating their home and renting another in the meantime- thus moving several times, and trying to help her son overcome a bullying issue at school. At the same time she talks about starting to keep her journal online in a blog format, and the repercussions when other mothers realized she was publicly writing about their school. It seemed like most of the book was her complaints, but then again people are more inclined to write about the bad times and let off pressure, then to write about the good things I guess. Some predicaments were funny, others very familiar and then there were parts I just couldn't relate to at all (not being someone who pines after city living).

Rating: 3/5      346 pages, 2008

more opinions:
Book Chase
On My Bookshelf
The Book Nest
Bermudaonion's Weblog

Aug 9, 2014

Hide and Seek

by Taro Gomi

Cute little book that has hidden pictures. One page shows an object, on the facing side it's hidden within an image. It's cleverly done. In a line of giraffes; one has candles on its head instead of horns. A group of raccoons- one has a striped sock instead of a tail. A rooster's comb is a glove, a praying mantis body is a green pencil, the negative space in an alligator's mouth forms a toothbrush. And so on. My favorite is the last page, which has a group of children. A spoon and fork are hidden in the shapes of a girls' pigtails. Fun.

Rating: 3/5      24 pages, 1990

more opinions:
Picture This Book
Waking Brain Cells

Aug 7, 2014

The Boss Baby

by Maria Frazee

This cute little book depicts a new baby as a corporate boss. Black and white onesie styled like a business suit, holding long lists of demands, crying and screaming to call his parents to "meetings". Cute metaphor to how a baby can completely overtake a home, get mom and dad hopping to do his bidding, demand instant results (even when no one can figure out what he really wants) and get all his perks: music played to soothe him, drinks prepared round the clock and so on. Until the baby's "staff" of mom and dad collapse in complete exhaustion. Baby calls for attention, but gets no response. So he must find a new way to communicate. Really cute. My little girl just thinks the baby is being silly, it's parents who will really get a chuckle out of this one, recognizing how demanding infants can really be.

Borrowed this one from the library. It's fun to read the author's words about how her concept for the book evolved here.

Rating: 3/5       36 pages, 2010

more opinions:
Maw Books Blog
Help Readers Love Reading
The Book Chook
Munchkin's Book Journey

Aug 5, 2014

The Cat Whisperer

by Mieshelle Nagelschneider

A book all about cat behavior and how to make it fit what you want to live with. Why cats do what they do- the basis being that cats are in nature solitary hunters out to protect their resources- so to have a peaceful housecat you must make sure they feel secure and don't have to ward off rival cats (whether in the house or out of it) or feel crowded at feeding spots and the like. That's just a little bit of it, but you get the idea. The author discusses in very specific detail how to handle undesirable things your cat might do such as soiling things outside of the litterbox, marking places with urine, clawing furniture, yowling in the middle of the night, sucking on clothing or hair, attacking people and/or other cats and so on. Also issues like how to introduce a new cat to an established cat in the home, how to help a cat settle in after a move and more. Points out when conventional advice is not the best to follow, and what medical issues could cause common behavior problems. In each instance she explains things from your cat's viewpoint- why they are probably doing what they do, and how to redirect their behavior- mostly by removing the stresses from their environment and providing more appropriate outlets for their needs. I don't currently live with a cat, but I do still help take care of my cat who now lives with my boyfriend and we've had to deal with him urinating outside of the box. A lot of the ideas in this book were very helpful (he hasn't had issues in a while, but I have a better idea now of what might have been causing them).

Some things of interest I learned from this book:
Cats and humans have similar pheromones, which makes it easy for cats to bond with people.
Cats communicate with each other mostly by scent, but learn that people respond better to vocalization.
You can transfer the scent off a cat's own body to alter its behavior, how it feels about things in the home or other cats and people it lives with.
Cats are good at "time-sharing" and can have peacefully overlapping territories because they use different resources at different times of the day.
Cats naturally live by hunting and eat small, frequent meals throughout the day- so she suggests you feed them more often in small portions, or leave food available all day long. I always thought that would make a cat fat.
I knew cats' temperaments could be shaped by early socialization or lack of it, but learned that they can also have behavior problems later in life if they suffer from malnutrition as kittens. Malnutrition can actually affect parts of the brain so it don't work properly later on.
How a cat ideally likes his litterbox placed was not exactly what I thought before.
Most cats like to be petted on the head and sides of the face, not along the body, back or near the tail.
Cats don't like to drink near the places where they eat- because in nature their dead prey could contaminate water. So she says that's why some cats prefer to drink out of your water glass, a dripping faucet, or the toilet.
A cat can feel frustrated when it plays with things you manipulate, but never let it catch. And, she says you should finish a prey-sequence play session not only by letting your cat grab and "kill" the toy, but also by feeding your cat or giving it a treat- then it will feel really satisfied.

A lot of things I never really considered before. Might just get a copy of this book to keep on my shelf. I found this one at the public library, just browsing my favorite section.

Rating: 4/5    310 pages, 2013

more opinions:
Book Reviews from an Avid Reader
the Conscious Cat
Different Time, Different Place

Aug 4, 2014

Within Reach

My Everest Story
by Mark Pfetzer and Jack Galvin

This guy starting climbing some serious mountains when he was only thirteen years old. He was the youngest to summit Mount Pisco and Huascaran in Peru at fourteen, summited Aconcagua in Argentina when he was fifteen then went on to climb Everest, summit Mount Rainier and Ama Dablam in Nepal the same year and returned to Everest and tackled Kilimanjaro in Africa when he was sixteen. And those aren't the only climbs he did. It's a pretty amazing thing.

And a very engaging book to read. It reads like it's pulled straight out of his journal. Snippets of this and that, first impressions, little stories about other people he's met, glimpses of his family and most of all the climbing. Why he does it. His motivation, his meticulous preparations, his focus on safety and physical conditioning, the necessity of finding sponsors and how he got people to back him. All the time and effort that go into preparing for each climb. Once again I was reminded of the sheer mass of everything - distance travelled, heaps of gear, collection of people supporting or coaching or carrying stuff for others, the back and forth up the mountainside to acclimate, the huge force of it all for one last push to get just a few people to the top. And the many who don't make it. Very sobering. I can understand the thrill and drive that makes people climb mountains like Mark did, but I would never ever do it myself.

He made it very clear that it was his desire to climb mountains, that his parents only let him go because he prepared so strictly, that he studied a lot on the road and in camps to keeping up with his schooling. That it was his will and hard work that got him there. I found quite interesting his ideas on what advantages young climbers might have over older climbers who carried more experience, and also the different view of things when near the end of the book Mark was acting as a guide and support to a wealthy family who paid someone to get them up a mountain, instead of working hard to prepare themselves. In the book Mark often mentions his dreams to become a medical doctor, but it seems he is now an inspirational speaker.

It's an interesting, vivid and quick read. Got me thinking of all the other mountain-climbing books I've heard about and would like to read sooner rather than later.

Rating: 3/5      224 pages, 1998

more opinions:
Everest Book Report

Aug 3, 2014

Catch That Baby!

by Nancy Coffelt

Baby brother has a bath and then doesn't want to get dressed. Instead he goes running naked through the house. On each page, another family member joins in the chase. My little girl giggles at the nakedness (you only see his butt) and the romp through the house. She loves pointing out where the baby is hiding behind furniture on certain pages. In the end the little boy puts his clothes on by himself- all the wrong way of course, which elicits even more giggles! The illustrations by Scott Nash, ink line and color, are lively and fun.

Rating: 3/5     34 pages, 2011

more opinions:
Waking Brain Cells
Sal's Fiction Addiction
Rosemary's Reading Circle
The Little Mom

Aug 2, 2014

Outfoxing the Fox

by Friederike Rave

A little fox wakes up one day and decides he doesn't have to go to school, because "foxes are clever enough already." But when he visits the henhouse to get a chicken for his dinner, the hens are far too smart for him. They pretend to be sick, insisting they'd love to help him out, but he doesn't want to eat a sick chicken- he should wait until they are better. The fox agrees this seems best. Each night he returns to the henhouse, and then hens are progressively wrapped up in more clothes, sneezing and coughing, claiming to still be sick. Finally the hungry fox gives up on chickens and with a bit of luck steals a hunter's sandwich. Pleased to have a good meal at last, he tucks into his sandwich planning to go visit the chickens again tomorrow. But they won't be there- you can see their getaway plan on the last page.

This is a fun book, with lively illustrations and some silly situations that make my little girl giggle. But there's a few things that bug me about it. One is the idea that this fox is skipping school- yet there's no mention of school brought up again, he doesn't learn some tricks or skills somewhere and then try them out as I half-expected. No parent figures in the story at all either. Another is that on most pages the hens are painting swathes of the page white, or rolling out white paper (see the cover). First time I read the story I thought this was part of their plan to fool the fox- maybe they were making everything white like winter, to back up their "sick with a cold" ruse. Then I realized it was a visual joke in the background: then hens are just making white space for the text. But it felt like it ought to be part of the story!

Regardless, it's a book my three-year-old really enjoys, so I shouldn't be so critical. But for myself, it feels kind of awkward. Some parts just don't fit together.

Rating: 2/5      28 pages, 2010

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