Each month, I write a book review column for a local magazine here in town. In collaboration with (and with permission from) the publisher, I thought it might be fun to read here. So – here you go:
All the Water in the World – George Ella Lyon and Katherine Tillotson
A book with large abstract illustrations full of color, this shows the younger readers about the world’s water cycle: how it works, where water comes from (and goes to), and why it’s important to save it. Taken from a story-telling perspective (more than strictly scientific), this is a gentle and thoughtful book to read with kids as they learn about our precious natural resources in a semi-arid location like Lubbock. (Also very useful to explain natural cycles such as the drought we have had in recent summers to younger readers and help to understand why we need to be careful about water use.)
National Geographic: Angry Birds – Mel White
A clever tie-in with the popular computer game of Angry Birds, this NatGeo book is a collection of real “bad-tempered” birds from all over the world. From the parrot that lives in the snowy mountains of New Zealand to the rude coot, this is an ideal way to introduce middle readers to the huge world of birds, both big and small. Great photography clearly shows different bird species being annoyed, testy or furious and is an effective (and sneaky) way to teach reluctant readers about 50 species of rather clever birds doing what they do best – being their normal slightly grumpy selves. This was a really fun read. (There is also a NatGeo Angry Birds book about space – “accidental” learning at its best!)
The School of Essential Ingredients – Erica Bauermeister
This is a fun and fast read that focuses on a small group of adult students attending a casual cooking class at a local neighborhood restaurant. Characters are introduced one chapter at a time, so the reader gets to know their back story and how they ended up at that particular class, so the narrative is woven together to get a complete picture of the group by the end of the book. This format works really well in this case. The one thing not so good about this book is that it tended to be over-written in how the author describes food, but if you ignore these occasional lapses, it’s a well told story. If you’re a fan of Laura Esquival’s Like Water for Chocolate or perhaps Joanne Harris’ Chocolat, you’ll enjoy this (although this has fewer elements of magical realism in it). Plus there’s a sequel to this volume coming out soon. One warning: there is a high chance that this book will make you hungry. 🙂
Note: Bauermeister is also a co-author of a great reference book for women writers if you’re curious in off-the-beaten-path books: 500 Great Books by Women.
Each month, I write a book review column for a local magazine here in town. In collaboration with (and with permission from) the publisher, I am adding the column to my blog as I thought it might be a fun feature. So – here you go:
Ladybug Girl – David Soman and Jacky Davis
What happens when your older brother tells you that you’re too little to play with him? If you’re Ladybug Girl, you go off and create your own fun! The small girl in this story is sad and mad when her parents are too busy to play and her brother won’t. In despair, she looks at all her toys, declares she is bored but then wanders around and makes her own fun. She also learns that she is not too little to make her world a bit better (helped by her dog Bingo). Charming illustrations help to tell the story and give hope to neglected younger brothers and sisters.
Matilda – Roald Dahl
Written in a similar vein (and by the same author) as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, this fun novel is full of rather naughty people getting their come-uppance (both the kids and the adults). The heroine is young Matilda, a very clever young girl and almost a prodigy in reading and math skills. However, despite this, her parents are not supportive of her academic efforts, and so there are lots of adventures involved with Matilda outwitting the various adults and kids in her life who are mean to her. She attends a local school with a tyrant headmistress and a lovely classroom teacher who both provide a balance of good and bad in Matilda’s young school life. This is a super-good book to encourage kids that it’s ok to be academically clever (even if it does make you the odd one out for a while). It’s also about a girl realizing she doesn’t have to accept the limits by others (which I believe is an important message). This story works well for both boys and girls, and was an enjoyable quick read. (There is also a movie out based on this novel, but haven’t seen it so not sure of its quality. As always, I suggest that you read the book first.)
One Day in the Life of the American Woman – ed. Sharon Wohlmoth et al.
Subtitled “How We See Ourselves”, this book is part of an ongoing series of photographic essays focused on women of all backgrounds from across the country. Illustrated by a series of really good photographs of the various subjects taken by professional female photographers, every woman featured is unique: working or not working, parent or not, and from all over the place. This is a great graphic reminder that whoever you are is perfectly OK, and that American women (and indeed people all over) come in all sorts of sizes and shapes and colors. A nice coffee table book to browse in spare moments, and good to leave around for “teachable” moments with daughters, sons etc.