This is a delightful, well-written, secular book that I can read multiple times to the kids without finding it tiresome (and good thing too). We get iThis is a delightful, well-written, secular book that I can read multiple times to the kids without finding it tiresome (and good thing too). We get it out of the library every December.
The thing that particularly warms my heart though is that all the many birds depicted are all real species, accurately drawn, which is an unfortunately rare occurrence in picture books....more
I gave this book five stars because that's how strongly I feel it ought to be widely read. If I were going on strict quality, I'd give it a four, as I I gave this book five stars because that's how strongly I feel it ought to be widely read. If I were going on strict quality, I'd give it a four, as I had some direct quibbles with a chapter or two and really felt a few chapters wanted more analysis/organization. And, given that it's written for a lay audience, I didn't always feel that I had enough information to assess how solid the research they chose to focus on was—but at least it wasn't super easy to poke holes in it, which it is for so much of the sensationalistic "studies" reported in the news. And they almost always had several different sets of studies pointing to the same thing.
Overall, however, it was wildly fascinating to read a book about kids/parenting that wasn't a "parenting manual" and wasn't devoted to trying to push a particular ideology. Some of it reinforced my gut instincts/habits and other parts challenged them, and I see that as generally a good sign. Some of it felt very very important—stuff on praise, lying, sleep, race relations, aggression, early learning styles that emphasize developing "executive functioning"—others of it less so (I don't really give a crap when you should test kids for gifted programs or elite private schools, even though the science of brains developing at different speeds and IQ, even for those who set store by it, not being a fixed number, is interesting.)
Surprisingly, also, given the very disparate topics covered, I found the points they drew out in the conclusion to be pretty powerful, especially the point that good traits and bad traits aren't on the same continuum—you can be high on both or low on both—and having good traits (sociability, cheeriness) doesn't protect you from developing bad ones (aggression). Much food for thought. ...more
Incredibly personal look at the internal experience of complex grief and the vagaries of memory. A really neat read, if sad. For all that, the underst Incredibly personal look at the internal experience of complex grief and the vagaries of memory. A really neat read, if sad. For all that, the understanding of how the reveal affected the narrator's brother seemed surprisingly simplistic, given how central it was to the plot. ...more
Having spent a decent amount of time following these topics for work, it was still impressive to me how much I had to learn about the details of how t Having spent a decent amount of time following these topics for work, it was still impressive to me how much I had to learn about the details of how the real estate market spiraled out of control so badly. Highly recommended....more
Since I went in agreeing with Lenore about her basic point, I wasn't expecting a whole lot of revelations. And in a way, I didn't really get any. But Since I went in agreeing with Lenore about her basic point, I wasn't expecting a whole lot of revelations. And in a way, I didn't really get any. But it's noteworthy to me that for weeks afterward I was referring to things from the book every other day. That's always a good sign. If you struggle as a parent with feeling overprotective or paranoid about the big bad dangerous world, or know someone who gets on your case if you don't, I recommend it.
I do have a few quibbles: The biggest is that she tries to turn her main point (children need more freedom to do things independently. Actually there isn't someone waiting to snatch them on ever corner) into something much broader (people worry too much. breast milk, formula, who cares?). One can definitely make an argument that pregnant women are given guilt complexes over tiny things, but it's really only tangentially related. And believing kids need more freedom is not the same as believing that all things one does with an infant are equally healthy.
OK. That rant aside, I do wish she'd addressed more often the fact that while yes, gruesome kidnappings are so super rare as to be not worth curtailing a child's freedom over, there is another category of "kinda skeezy interactions" that are more common. It does get addressed in one example, and well, but bore more discussion.
Still, the underlying issue of letting irrational fears drive our parenting, to our children's detriment, is too incredibly important. More important that even she's willing to say really. She's oddly deferential really to parents who want to keep their kids in a bubble (won't if that was a publisher move.) For a stronger argument in that vein, check out In Defense of Childhood....more
One of the most astoundingly brilliant books I've ever read. Makes a case for how crazy things like noun cases and conjugation develop—and why they go One of the most astoundingly brilliant books I've ever read. Makes a case for how crazy things like noun cases and conjugation develop—and why they go away again. So so good....more
I will have much more to say on this book in an upcoming column. Suffice it to say that if I could insist that the president read just one book, any b I will have much more to say on this book in an upcoming column. Suffice it to say that if I could insist that the president read just one book, any book, it would be this one.
I have critiques sure — early on it could use either more technical backing up, or more layperson-friendly walking through.
But it's so incredibly refreshing to have a decidedly capitalist, non-radical economically trained someone call such thorough bullshit on the "but we have to let the markets decide" excuse for everything a handful of lazy business execs want to do to enrich themselves.
The best part though, is that it didn't just reinforce what I thought I knew. It challenged some assumptions and gave me new reasons or language for others. I'm going to have to read it again to be able to hold enough in my head to have the debate, but I intend to do so......more
Practical, straightforward. A little more detailed on worm reproduction, as opposed to pest prevention or best ways to manage your box, than I might h Practical, straightforward. A little more detailed on worm reproduction, as opposed to pest prevention or best ways to manage your box, than I might have liked. The necessary info is pretty much there though. I guess I'll report back after we actually try it. Bin built, awaiting worms....more
If you have migraines, read it. Finally, someone who doesn't trot out silly assumptions like "Just stop eating chocolate and you'll be fine."
The autho If you have migraines, read it. Finally, someone who doesn't trot out silly assumptions like "Just stop eating chocolate and you'll be fine."
The author is a Doctor, with a fondness for meds, and I found her a bit prone to underemphasize triptans' side effects (which they do have), but on the other hand, she's respectful of people who don't want to use them, and quite positive about alt treatments of many sorts (except herbs, but she gives pretty good, specific reasons for that).
Very nice to have a comprehensive picture by someone not promoting a panacea....more
Based on the quality of the writing and the characterization, I'd give this six stars. It was incredibly done, constantly full of those descriptions t Based on the quality of the writing and the characterization, I'd give this six stars. It was incredibly done, constantly full of those descriptions that us normal humans would never think to put in writing and but when we see them we think "Yes! Of course that's how it is!" So, so good. My family can tell you I had trouble putting it down.
I also couldn't help but be tickled by the scenes describing the interactions between a college poetry class and a slam/open mic scene.
That said, I'm still tired of plots driven by cheating, even if I'm less harsh on ones where it's clearly not because the author couldn't think of plenty of other ways to create dramatic tension too. I'm not even sure it didn't belong right where it was in this book, even. But it still makes me grumble a little.
And I'm a bit old-fashioned about novel endings. I usually want a bit more closure than this one gives, especially when I've come to care about the characters as much as I have.
On my post about errors about the natural world in kids books, a few people piped up to say that the social biases in kids books bother them more—stupOn my post about errors about the natural world in kids books, a few people piped up to say that the social biases in kids books bother them more—stupid fathers, prissy girls, everyone white, etc. I wish it were as easy to dispatch those with a simple top ten list, but they're far more insidious and numerous.
However, here's one tiny stab at the overlap: A bit of a commentary about the blinders that social biases put on scientists.
The book in question is called Boy, Were We Wrong About Dinosaurs. It was recommended to me by a commenter on my previous post, and billed as an introduction to the scientific method, a window into the process of making theories based on the evidence you have, testing them (when that’s possible), and changing them based on new evidence.
And, of course, it’s about dinosaurs, which hold a not entirely explicable fascination for a massive proportion of kids, mine included.
It is in fact, a pretty great book, full of neat stories such as people mistaking Iguanodons’ massive conical thumb bones for horns until they found a complete skeleton, or how some bone cross-sections look more like those of warm-blooded animals than of cold-blooded ones—which is part of what spurred the whole movement toward dinosaurs-as-bird-ancestors and away from dinosaurs-as-big-lizards.
But the book also is a better example of how science works than it really set out to be: It contains two glaring examples of how, for all the real power of the scientific method and (most) scientists’ genuine commitment to objectivity and open-mindedness, science is carried out (and interpreted and written about) by people who are subject, to a greater or lesser extent, to all the biases and assumptions of their day. Those blinders creep into their conclusions far more than they would like to admit.
For example, one of the points that the book makes is that we used to think of dinosaurs as having reptile-like parenting skills—i.e., none; they lay eggs and leave. But then paleontologists found evidence (such as nests with older hatchlings in them) that dinosaurs may have been more active parents.
Except the book doesn’t say parents.
It says mothers. Over and over.
I have no need to project egalitarian parenting onto other species, where it often doesn’t exist. But since it does exist among birds quite often, I would have been pretty slow to make such a massive assumption and present it as a “discovery.”
And in fact, last December a flurry of articles about active dinosaur dads came out—some researchers think in some cases they were the primary parent.
Boy, was the book wrong—not in a scientific way though, in a lazy way.
This kind of assumption can actively bog science down. In the 1990s, cultural anthropologist Emily Martin described how researchers working on new forms of contraception were incredibly slow to recognize key information about how human fertilization works because they were so wedded (unconsciously) to their culturally influenced assumptions of mighty aggressive sperm and passive eggs. (Turns out sperm are weak uncoordinated swimmers and have to be entrapped and engulfed by the egg while they try to get away.)
The other bias in Boy, Were We Wrong About Dinosaurs strikes even closer to the heart of scientists and their self image. It starts off with a description of how the ancient Chinese found dinosaur bones and, in trying to figure out what they came from, came up with the creature we now know as the Chinese dragon. It shows a picture, says that they figured they must have been magic to have been so big, and thought they might be still around. “Boy, were they wrong!” Then it says, “Now we think many of our own past guesses about dinosaurs were just as wrong as those of ancient China.”
Toward the end of the book we come back to this theme, but less diplomatically: “Perhaps today’s ideas about dinosaurs will someday seem just as silly as the magic dragons of long-ago China.”
Interestingly, instead of “Boy, were they wrong,” everyone else, starting with European scientists from hundreds of years ago gets “Boy, were we wrong!” (emphasis mine). The message is clear: real scientific inquiry began after those initial discoveries, with the “we” of the rest of the book (all white by the illustrations).
Let’s pause and consider for a second. What did the ancient Chinese think those bones belonged to? A large, long, scaly reptilian creature. What did the first Europeans to try to make a theory about the same sorts of bones—a long time later and with far more technology—come up with? A large, long, scaly reptilian creature. They gave it a different name. They came up with different wrong embellishments. They placed it into a different cosmology. But the ancient Chinese were basically doing the same thing, with fewer tools, and had remarkably similar results. They weren't right, but they were hardly silly.
I understand and support what the book’s authors were trying to do: show how early scientific hypotheses can turn out to be as off-base as something that even a child can recognize as untrue. Only in the process of doing so, they revealed their own ethnocentric biases: They feel that dragons were an obviously silly, superstitious theory, while gray, reptilian brontosauruses dragging their tails through the mud were an educated hypothesis that happened to turn out to be inaccurate.
Boy, were they wrong. But at least they gave the parents reading it a ready phrase to critique their own book with. ...more
**spoiler alert** Since my daughter grabbed this book off the library shelf a few years ago, we have gotten our own copy and gifted it to many others.**spoiler alert** Since my daughter grabbed this book off the library shelf a few years ago, we have gotten our own copy and gifted it to many others. It's just marvelous.
Quick summary: Girl grows up biking (bike seat to tricycle to training wheels...). Then she outgrows her bike and her family can't afford a new one. So she first raises money by fixing other kids' bikes and then takes salvaged parts and builds herself a new one.
What's not to love? Girl with attitude. Parents who both help her learn to fix bikes. Ingenuity, spunk, and recycling. But also, looking a little deeper: urban kid whose parents aren't rich, with some freedom to roam her neighborhood and earn her own money. Trying several things before one works. Sticking to something that takes a long time even though you are daunted and your friends question whether you can do it. But all without being hamhanded about the message. Generosity (she gives her outgrown bike to a young friend). Exuberance.
NB: Though the main character is white, at least not all of her friends are.
Oh, and it's well written, which I can attest to after having read now it many many times. And it can hold the attention of a class of 2nd graders...more