Maddeningly, I could not get my Fire to cooperate and let me write some kind of review yesterday.
Scientists in the Field Series
I've read two now, and on behalf of the parents of inquisitive children, let me say "Thank You! HMH Books for Young Readers, thank you so much for producing non-fiction books for children that have actual content. Mere words cannot express my gratitude. Here, take all my money and produce more of these fine volumes."
I can't be the only adult to rend my garments and gnash my teeth and having to read aloud the one hundredth book on say, pandas, that the child has managed to find, and that contains several lovely pictures and not enough facts or even theories to fill a photo caption. Three year olds may lack context, but they aren't stupid. Nor are they afraid of big words. Everyone has met the equivalent of the child who knows the correct names and pronunciations (I always had a hard time with these, the stress is never where I expect it to be) of every dinosaur ever cataloged. All that brainspace, and nothing to fill it up. But not this series. These books, bless 'em,these books tell the reader so much. This one gives a bit of personal history of the lead researcher on the project, what he studied in college, what kinds of jobs and graduate school lead to him being in expert on the snow leopards of Mongolia and how to count them, despite being one of the most difficult animals to locate in the wild.
There's a bit of background on the political and cultural history of Mongolia, a bit of the climate and ecology of the Gobi. there's a bit on language, on the practicality of gers (Mongolian yurts), and the popularity of the color orange in the painting of doors, which with the frames can be popped into the ger as it is set up. there's information on the physical demands of this particular field work, on the challenges of feeding a vegetarian writer in a region whose diet is almost entirely meat and dairy.
And then, of course, there is the science. In order to save an endangered species you have to be able to estimate the population and gauge the trend in population after an intervention. Tracking animals with radio collars is helpful, but first you have to safely capture the animals, and these big kitties are so perfectly camouflaged it is possible to be within two feet of one with a tracking collar and still not see it.
I'll stop now. I think I've made it clear how enjoyable and informative the books in this series are. I haven't managed to talk anyone in the family into starting either of these yet, but my ceaseless yammering will wear down their resistance. Perhaps you are not a fan of books for younger readers, or you're not interested in the science of [insert fascinating topic here]. Even so, I ask you to keep them in mind. Make sure the youngest people of your acquaintance have a copy that suits their particular interests. Keep them in mind as an introduction to a topic that is more entertaining and encompassing than the average Wiki, but short enough to read in a couple of hours. Or just check one out of the library to look at the pretty pictures (the photography meets the same high standards as the text, and the back matter) and read the captions, that'll teach you enough to sound well informed at the next cocktail party [I've never actually attended a cocktail party, possibly they do not exist outside of fiction. Feel free to substitute the making-conversation-with-strangers-or-nearly scenario that works best for you.]
If you aren't in the habit of reading nonfiction for children, but you've read this gushing review anyway, I thank you. If you didn't read the review, but somehow found this bit at the end, I'll put it in this perspective: if I graded books on a scale, all the others would have to be marked down from five stars to one.
In high school Brad and I did a scene for the school, and then I read all the plays for my two Shakespeare classes at UNCG, and now I've reread it to keep Veronica company. As written there is only one amusing scene; takes some keen acting and directing to pull the rest of it off. Ten Things I Hate About You is universally preferred in our house.
He's not going to stop talking about his mustache. I admit it, the cover model WITHOUT a mustache had given me hope. It's intrusive because pretty much no one ever notices their own little mannerisms, only other peoples. I don't say anything about it when I touch my face, or put my hair over my shoulder or whatever because I don't even register that I'm doing it, unless there's something weird with my hand. Someone else might think about it, might criticize it, or think of it as a clue to whether I'm bluffing, or whatever. /tiny rant
Fisher has had an amazing career from appearing in a history-making film, to publishing a novel, and becoming known as a script doctor, having had unspeakably famous parents, and achieving a whole 'nother bout of fame as an amusing figure who's now beyond all of that, and more interested in everything than in her fame. I have loved her novels, and I've loved her in everything she's done.
All of her books are deeply personal, but this one made me so sad. I miss her, this woman I didn't know, with her dog, and her mother. I'm so sad for her family's double loss. I'm sad that she'll never write anything ever again, let alone share a few embarrassing lines from her teenage journals.
Mind blown, again, by the endlessly adaptable Larbalestier. Personality disorders are the worst. Loved it so much I had to reread Liar, also set in NY. (As an aside, the way she writes about physical activity is so compelling, I'm ready to devote myself to running, or boxing. Something. Almost ready. Will be ready after a nice nap with the kitties.)
And also, I appreciate so much that the cast of characters isn't exclusively white, or straight, or able-bodied, or neurotypical, or mainline Christian. Her modern world feels like the one I live in, is all.
I can't wait to see what she publishes next.
I really can't imagine that I would have cared much for the art of Basquiat if the editor hadn't done such a fabulous job of pairing the words with the pictures. The result feels like a close collaboration, rather than an after-the-fact pairing. Nice back matter, for those who care, too.
And a shout-out to my local librarians who always find new books to tempt me with in their displays, even when I'm in bit of a reading slump.
There aren't nearly enough books showing the lives of working-class kids in the US. There are even fewer that show people making an effort to improve the lives of others as anything other than an individual act of kindness. Bring back the red-diaper babies! Bring back the goal of social justice! I want to see people striving for equality again.
Super silly picture book wherein the father keeps pulling increasingly less probably items from under the seat cushion of a comfy chair. The archetypal comfy chair. The one I've become obsessed with. Now in addition to passing time looking at gorgeous home libraries on Pinterest, I've taken to looking for chairs closest to this ideal. I haven't found one yet. But now I have another ridiculously pointless quest to amuse my idle moments.
Mara Wilson is another brilliant storyteller. Sometimes she’s amusing, but mostly she just tells her stories in a way that really sucks you in. What is it like being the adult after being a child star? There’s a lot of anxiety and grief in here, so don’t confuse this with the other primarily funny books. Library copy
Gorgeous pictures and a lot of interesting context. I heard of The New Look, but I didn’t get what was new about it, until I learned about the French fashion industry under occupation in WWII. Oh, well that changes things. Library copy.
I don’t understand why anyone is reluctant to acknowledge that animals share some characteristics, behaviors, and susceptibilities, across species lines. Of course, one of the local colleges has recently started a huge cross-species cancer effort, working to save dogs and also maybe humans. Library copy.
Castle of Wolfenbach (1793) by Eliza Parsons: sort of a Nancy Drew opening
I'm cross-posting my own review because eventually I hope to have read the entire horrible book, and I'd like to have all the sub-reviews collected.
Wow. So it's clear why this didn't remain a popular book for long. All of the creepy gothic stuff takes place at the beginning. Then there's a section of characters acting like normal (aristocratic) people and traveling and having large house parties, and crushing on each other, and oh, if I had read this book before reading Mansfield Park I would never have cast any aspersions upon Fanny. Mathilda is rather unusually perfect in every way, such that everyone who meets her is immediately smitten and keen to support her for the rest of her life; and, yeah, that's not the most unbelievable part. Hard to say what is, though. There's the way two different villains repent of the horrors they have done and are immediately forgiven by the only survivors. Or the way everyone talks in monologues that last for pages of dense paragraphs. Or the pirate who was planning to retire anyway, so he might just as well help Mathilda out...Really, there isn't a single believable bit in the whole book, neither in the story nor in the telling. To sum up: gruesome, and not in a fun way (unless you enjoy reading awful books, which apparently I do, if they're old enough). First of The Complete Northanger Horrid Novel Collection
An entire picture book expanding on the concrete visualization demonstrated in “A Mouse’s Tale” in Alice in Wonderland. Of course I love it. Who among us does not feel like a (former) Child made of Books? Well then. Library copy
Way to go, Sedgewick. Seriously, well done. Taut, suspenseful, good characterization...just a fabulous book.