D.C.’s Presidential Primary is tomorrow, so this seems the perfect time to share Two Friends: Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass by Dean Robbins. The book tells of Anthony and Douglass’s fight for rights, including voting rights – and also their friendship and planning over tea and cake. Sean Qualls & Selina Aliko (who also collaborated on The Case for Loving) are responsible for the great mixed media illustrations. A preschool-appropriate introduction to two very important Americans!
This book is like a beginner’s field guide to birding. Amy Ludwig VanDerwater writes simple rhyming characteristics for twenty different North American birds, which pair beautifully with Dylan Metrano’s cut paper illustrations. I *love* cut paper illustrations, so this book was a winner from the start – and maybe we’ll get a little better at identifying the birds in our area!
With Arbor Day coming up this Friday, now is a great time to pick up Barbara Reid’s Picture a Tree. Throughout the four seasons, trees play many roles (home to birds and animals, shade on a sunny day) and look many different ways (skeletons in winter, riotous color in spring). Reid’s plasticine illustrations feature a diverse array of trees and people alike. I love them.
Gunpowder Plot by Carola Dunn. Daisy Dalrymple returns in another fun and fluffy mystery – this one set at a Guy Fawkes celebration.
Moving Pictures by Kathryn Immonen. A graphic novel imagining of the true tale of the moving and hiding of art work from the Louvre in advance of the German takeover of France in World War II. Enjoyable with nice black and white illustrations.
All Clear by Connie Willis. The sequel to Blackout, which a read and really enjoyed last year, All Clear resolves to stories of the time travelling historians trapped in World War II England. Lived up to my high expectations. If you’ve never read Connie Willis, I really recommend her.
Guinea Pig, Pet Shop Private Eye: Hamster and Cheese. Aimed at early readers, this the first book in a cute graphic novel series in which a guinea pig tries to solve the mystery of the disappearing sandwich.
Dracula Madness by Mary Labatt. A graphic novel detective series featuring an investigatory sheep dog. Nothing brilliant.
Room by Emma Donoghue. This book was on a lot of “best books” list at the end of 2010 and having read it now, I can say that the acclaim is well deserved. The story is told from the perspective of a 5-year boy who has only ever known the room is held captive in with his mother who was kidnapped when she was a teenager. Definitely worth reading.
Thrive: Finding Happiness the Blue Zones Way by Dan Buettner. Buettner wrote a book that I read last year about lessons learned from communities where people live a long time (routinely get into their 90s and 100s), and with this book he takes the same approach with communities who rate high for happiness. Nothing new or brilliant to the book, but I thought his description of Denmark sounded pretty great!
Children of the Sea, Volume 1 by Daisuke Igarashi. Beautifully illustrated manga that tells the story of the friendship between the daughter of an aquarium owner in Japan and two boys from the sea (children raised in the ocean by sea mammals).
Lunch Lady and the Summer Camp Shakedown by Jarrett J. Krosoczka. This is the latest is a cute and fun graphic novel series staring some elementary school aged kids and their lunch ladies who foil evil plots using things like fish-stick nunchuks. Good for the mid to late elementary school audiences.
I think this may be my favorite Early Reviewer books of the year. Little Princes: One Man’s Promise to Bring Home the Lost Children of Nepal by Conor Grennan is a book very much in the vein of Three Cups of Tea. Grennan first went to Nepal in 2004 for what was supposed to be a relatively brief (few month) stay at the start of a one year trip around the world. Volunteering at the orphanage outside Kathmandu was supposed to be his “good deed” before his big, fun, responsibility-free adventure. Grennan did leave Nepal after his stint was up, but couldn’t forget the children he had met and cared for there. He returned to Nepal again and again, eventually founding a non-profit, Next Generation Nepal, opening a second children’s home, and beginning a quest to find the families of the children within the two homes. (Most of the children were not truly orphans, having instead been trafficked by men who promised to take the children to safety in Kathmandu for large sums of money from the parents).
This was a captivating and engaging read. I finished it in two days and never wanted to put it down. It’s not being published until February, but I highly recommended it once it is available.
Fannie’s Last Supper by Chris Kimball was a fun book. The premise is as follows: Kimball, founder and editor of the magazine, Cook’s Illustrated, and host of the PBS show America’s Test Kitchen decides to create and served 12-course, Victorian dinner from Fannie Farmer’s 1896 Cookbook. As you can imagine recreating recipes from 1896 is a challenge, and sometimes fairly gross (Mock-Turtle Soup, made with a calf’s head. Ugh.). It was interesting to see how much cooking had changed in just over 100 years, and while it was really fun to read about this different food and to get a little history into how this country ate, it made me glad that I live when I do now when cooking doesn’t take all day and I never have to make gelatin from calves’ feet.
While the planning and preparation for this dinner took two years, and the books covers this, there was also a documentary made of the dinner itself, which is supposed to be showing on PBS “during the holidays”. So far I haven’t seen it listed on my local PBS station, but I am hoping to catch it when it airs. It would be interesting to actually see the food described in the book.
I read 16 books in October, 5 Non-fiction and 11 Fiction.
Juliet by Anne Fortier. I heard about this book on NPR, and was interested in giving it a try. Juliet is a sort of Da Vinci Code-esque book, but focused on the story of Romeo and Juliet, not art. This isn’t a criticism, for all the criticism The Da Vinci code got, it was still a very engaging read. Juliet is probably a little better written, but equally engaging. If you like thrillers with a little history to them, this is a good one.
Salt Water Taffy: A Climb Up Mt. Barnabus by Matthew Loux. This is the second Salt Water Taffy graphic novel that I’ve read. They are the cute adventures of two brothers on vacation. I especially enjoy the fact that they are set in Maine.
The Unsinkable Walker Bean by Aaron Renier. A great, detailed, colorful graphic novels for middle grades.
Mercury by Hope Larson. This is a interesting graphic novel that tells the parallel stories of a modern Canadian in high schooler living with relatives after her house burned down and the ancestors who first lived in that house. Great black-and-white illustrations.
Binky to the Rescue by Ashley Spires. I love Binky! Binky is an officially certified space cat (think feline astronaut) living a secret life as a house cat. In this second adventure, Binky must brave outer space (the back yard) to rescue his copilot (stuffed mouse, Ted) from aliens (bigs). Cute and smart and funny.
Sex at Dawn: The Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sexuality by Christopher Ryan. This book was mentioned a lot on Slog (The Stranger’s Blog), which made me curious. It is a really fascinating look at what clues evolution has left in our bodies and what they tell us about how our prehistoric ancestors lived and how we evolved.
The Gardner Heist: The True Story of the World’s Largest Unsolved Art Theft by Ulrich Boser. A real life whodunit. If you like Ocean’s 11 and the like, you will like this book.
Great Expectations by Charles Dickens. I read this over a matter of months on DailyLit. Classics are free on DailyLit and this is a good way for me to fill in those gaps in my literary knowledge caused by not being an English major. To be perfectly honest, I wasn’t that crazy about Great Expectations, but I’m glad I read it.
Mennonite in a Little Black Dress: A Memoir of Going Home by Rhoda Janzen. This book was really funny, which I wasn’t quite expecting. Janzen wrote the book while on sabbatical and living with her parents after an emotionally painful divorce (her husband left her for Bob from Gay.com) and a physically painful car accident. That doesn’t sound like a barrel of laughs, but trust me, it was upbeat and funny and interesting.
Spark: How Old Fashioned Values Drive a Twenty-First Century Corporation by Frank Koller. This is another book I heard about on NPR. I was intrigued because it is about a company (Lincoln Electric) that is one of our clients at the firm. I didn’t know anything about them, so it was neat to learn more about a company that we represent. Lincoln Electric offers profit sharing and a guaranteed employment program which is pretty unique in the corporate world. They have a promise to employees not to lay folks off during downturns due to lack of work. Instead they cut hours (down to 30 hours/week at the lowest) and shift folks to other jobs or even to painting the factory if need be. It was need to see how that worked.
Tall Tales by Jeff Smith. A prequel to the Bone series.
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling. This was a reread for me. I have been slowly reading the Harry Potter series to Jami (she had never read the books!), and we just finished Book 5. I forgot how dark things get toward the end.
Country Driving: A Journey Through China from Farm to Factory by Peter Hessler. Peter Hessler is an American journalist who lived in China for a decade. This is his third book about his experiences there and offer and really wonderful look into what life is like in China. If you are at all interested in China, I recommend reading him.
Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood. This was our book club book this month. Prior to this the only Atwood I had read was The Handmaid’s Tale, and this book was very different (a historical novel based on a true story instead of dystopian science fiction). It was really good though and lead to an interesting book club discussion. I think I will have to try more books by Atwood.
Ghostopolis by Doug TenNapel. Another graphic novel – this one about a boy who is inadvertently taken from the land of the living to the land of ghost and the efforts to rescue him. It’s another good one – well-drawn and exciting story.
The Ice Princess by Camilla Lackberg. This mystery reminded me of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo books – probably mostly because they are Swedish, but also because of the weather and focus on domestic violence and the darker side of humans. If you like the Stieg Larsson books, I think you will enjoy this one as well.