If you thought you were familiar with the Grimm Brothers’ fairy tales, think again. With the belief that children like their stories with the messy bi...moreIf you thought you were familiar with the Grimm Brothers’ fairy tales, think again. With the belief that children like their stories with the messy bits left in, teacher and debut author Adam Gidwitz pulls eight tales into one fractured fairy tale starring Hansel and Gretel minus the sugar coating. Deciding early on that their parents are doing a pretty poor job of parenting, they set off to find their way in the world (a reasonable conclusion since their father chopped their heads off). In each adventure, the brother and sister run into adults who will not or cannot protect them from the evils of the world. When called upon to use their own wits and empathy, Hansel and Gretel overcome numerous obstacles (some of their own making) and save a kingdom. Not too shabby.
The narrator has plenty to say himself. Sometimes too much, but overall he does a nice job adding the humour to this grisly tale. The narrator variously entices and warns his readers. The characters’ illogical choices and moral shortcomings are pointed out, their heroism applauded and readers are reminded to hurry younger children off to bed so they can settle down to enjoy the awesomeness… “the horrible, bloody kind.”
When you’ve finished A Tale Dark and Grimm, be sure to look up some Grimm collections such as The Brothers Grimm: Popular Folk Tales and Grimms’ Tales for Young and Old to compare. --Andrea
This is a fun and informative look at “history’s strangest cures.” Carlyn Beccia presents a variety of ailments as multiple choice questions with old-...moreThis is a fun and informative look at “history’s strangest cures.” Carlyn Beccia presents a variety of ailments as multiple choice questions with old-time remedies as the only options. Each possible answer is then followed with a verdict of whether or not it could cure the ailment along with an explanation. Readers will be pleased to learn that puke weed and skunk oil cannot cure colds, but might be surprised to learn that dirt can cure stomachaches and silver offers protection from the plague. The explanations for why people thought cures that didn’t work would are as interesting as the those for the legitimate cures. The entertaining illustrations are a perfect match for the tone of this informative and engaging text. --Andrea
Crafts long ignored continue to experience revivals and Embroidery for Little Miss Crafty: Projects and Patterns to...moreLove this adorable embroidery book!
Crafts long ignored continue to experience revivals and Embroidery for Little Miss Crafty: Projects and Patterns to Create and Embellish fits the bill perfectly for children (and adults) wanting to get started. Simple patterns, great photos and diagrams, clear instructions for both stitches and projects! A real strength is the easy-to-trace templates and instructions for transferring the patterns to fabric. The patterns and projects are quite trendy, but in the best possible way. The content is solid while the book’s design will attract readers. Helen Dardik’s written a winner for a needlecraft that’s making a comeback. The publisher, Walter Foster, totes this as the first in a series, but provides no indication of what we can look forward to next.
Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn is an amazing book, both for the issues...moreHalf the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn is an amazing book, both for the issues it raises and for the hopeful and practical approach it takes to how these issues might be resolved, or at least improved upon. Each issue (such as slavery, obstetric fistulas, and maternal mortality) that they tackle receives two chapters. The first outlines the problem, its scope, challenges and many personal struggles. The second, usually shorter, chapter focuses on one person who has made headway in overcoming the problem. Sometimes these are men and women in the United States such as Harper McConnell who hasn’t returned yet from a study abroad session in the Congo, but gone on to start a school there. As often they are individuals such as Mukthar Mai who have grown up victims of the very injustices they are trying to change. They show that solutions are being found in the very communities where women struggling.
Just as you begin to feel that the scope of the problems some women face is too large, their examples offer hope and evidence that change can happen. Women’s issues are human rights issues that affect all people. When half a country’s resources are ignored, there is no way that country can truly succeed. This would be an excellent book group title as it is the type of book you read and want to share and talk about as well as want to find a way to get involved in fighting for change. The Half the Sky Movement website has become a place where people can continue to learn more and become involved in the issues the book raises. For more from Kristof and WuDun see their interview over at GoodReads. --Andrea
When Mark Obmascik’s twelve-year-old son came back from summitting a Fourteener and wanted to climb another Fourteener with his father, Obmascik could...moreWhen Mark Obmascik’s twelve-year-old son came back from summitting a Fourteener and wanted to climb another Fourteener with his father, Obmascik couldn’t resist. The realization that he could still climb mountains led to a greater challenge. He decided to summit the 54 14,000+ foot mountains of Colorado within a year. Each climb is chronicled in varying degress of detail, but the richness of the book comes from his integration of other aspects of climbing culture and the mountains themselves. His wife insists that he never climb alone so his quests for “man-dates” to climb with and the interesting personalities he climbs with provide many an entertaining anecdote. Obmascik also fills out the life stories of the summits’ past with stories of explorers, photographers, climbers, miners and ornery landowners.
Aside from the lack of photographs, I had one other problem with the book. Obmascik is self-deprecating to an extent that I was a little confused about the difficulty of climbing the Fourteeners. While he makes no attempt to romanticize the difficult portions, he also puts down his own fitness and skill level so frequently that I fear I was left with the false impression that if he could do this so could I. Halfway to Heaven is entertaining, interesting and inspiring. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off on a misguided quest for climbing partners. --Andrea
If you were caught up watching the triumphs in the Olympic pool by 15 to 41 year-olds, you’ll appreciate W. Hodding Carter’s chronicle of ‘the probabl...moreIf you were caught up watching the triumphs in the Olympic pool by 15 to 41 year-olds, you’ll appreciate W. Hodding Carter’s chronicle of ‘the probably insane idea that I could swim my way through a midlife crisis– and qualify for the Olympics." In his forties, he decided to pick up the habit again and attempt to make the 2008 Olympic Team as a freestyle sprinter. Like Dara Torres, Carter realized that it is not inevitable that we lose our strength and ability as we age. However, Carter’s path is much bumpier than Torres’. While Carter was an NCAA All-American swimmer in college, his earlier attempt to make the Olympic Team failed and he needed to swim faster than he did twenty years earlier. At the same time, he is experiencing marital and financial woes. The end result of his quest is immaterial for readers (and unknown within the pages of the book). It is the journey with its combination of humour, cockiness, humility and enthusiasm that keeps you engaged and just may inspire you to try to make the 2012 Olympics! --Andrea
Local author Sarah Prineas has struck gold with The Magic Thief, the first book in the children’s series by the same name. In a setting that brings to...moreLocal author Sarah Prineas has struck gold with The Magic Thief, the first book in the children’s series by the same name. In a setting that brings to mind Dickensian London, the young thief Conn pickpockets the local magicalus of a powerful magician Nevery Flingas. Intrigued that Conn is not killed by such an act, Flingas takes on Conn as an apprentice magician. Equally drawn to magic and the solid meals the lovable house-thug Bennett provides, Conn undertakes to make a go of it. While he has survived on the streets by thieving, Conn has a strong moral code that draws him into the mystery of who or what is trying to steal the magic from Wellmet City. A well-paced story with delightful characters and setting, The Magic Thief is hard to put down. Conn is a flawed hero, but one I was routing for every step of the way. While there are many motifs from other fantasy books, it’s truly an original and engaging story. --Andrea
I never thought I would be pointing children who like Lemony Snicket towards Lois Lowry, but such is the case. The Willoughbys is a parody of old-fash...moreI never thought I would be pointing children who like Lemony Snicket towards Lois Lowry, but such is the case. The Willoughbys is a parody of old-fashioned families in literature. The parents are so self-centred that they forget to mention their fourth child when hiring a nanny; the children so ruthless that they abandon an abandoned baby. Recalling orphans in storybooks, the four children plot to become orphans themselves by encouraging them to vacation amidst exotic danger as their parents plot to rid themselves of their children. As in so many old-fashioned stories, a stern and resourceful nanny brings out the best in the children and a lonely tycoon swoops in to save the day. Like Snicket, Lowry sprinkles the story with those adjectives (like despicable) that children find so appealing. A glossary gives delightful definitions for bilious, nefarious, etc. The bibliography of literary orphans is great fun to read and may lead to further literary adventures for children and fond remembering for adult readers. It’s an enjoyable quick-paced romp through the stereotypes of children’s literature, but if you’d rather read an old-fashioned children’s book than a parody, I recommend the newly released The Penderwicks on Gardam Street by Jeanne Birdsall. --Andrea
Japanese food and manga come together in The Manga Cookbook with recipes by Yoko Ishihara and illustrations by Chihiro Hattori. Miyuki and her adorabl...moreJapanese food and manga come together in The Manga Cookbook with recipes by Yoko Ishihara and illustrations by Chihiro Hattori. Miyuki and her adorable mascot, Coo, walk the readers through each recipe. Miyuki’s boyfriend, Hiroshi, occasionally helps out as well, but mostly by eating.
Most of the recipes are easy to follow thanks to the illustrations. It also helps that there aren’t many ingredients in any of the recipes. The extra touches given to the food’s appearance are some of the funnest parts of the book. I now have the, perhaps misguided, feeling that I could actually make the egg buddies (tamago tomodachi). Notes after many recipes are filled with interesting bits about the history of Japanese cuisine, ingredients in Japanese food and current customs in Japanese homes and restaurants.
Grab a bento box and fill it up with some of this delicious and attractive food. --Andrea
There’s nothing dull about this chemistry book. The Periodic Table: Elements with Style by Adrian Dingle and Basher gives each element a chance to shi...moreThere’s nothing dull about this chemistry book. The Periodic Table: Elements with Style by Adrian Dingle and Basher gives each element a chance to shine. Designed to resemble social networking web sites, The Periodic Table gives each chemical element its own homepage providing basic facts such as atomic weight, standard state and boiling point as well as a quirky profile written by each element. The portraits, such as Gold with its bling and Lead dressed like a Roman centurion, reinforce the information about each element. For example, Magnesium tells us, "I’m happy to mix in any social gathering of the elements, making friends with anyone, even moody hydrogen. I’m sparky, and I always cause a reaction!"
The book also puts the effects of each element in context of day-to-day life. We learn that sodium gives streetlights their orange glow and the dangers of chlorine. "You’ve gotta give me some respect! I’m a mean, green killing machine. One of the halogen gang, I’m a toxic gas with a horrible history."
Dingle and Basher have put together a book that will make you laugh, smile and share what you’ve learned. Quite a success for a chemistry book! --Andrea
Team Moon: How 400000 People Landed Apollo 11 on the Moon by Catherine Thimmesh takes the reader through Apollo 11’s trip to and from the moon. Stoppi...moreTeam Moon: How 400000 People Landed Apollo 11 on the Moon by Catherine Thimmesh takes the reader through Apollo 11’s trip to and from the moon. Stopping at each phase to tell about the people responsible for each stage of the mission – fanned out around the US by companies such as Grumman, Kodak and Westinghouse Electric as well as NASA itself. The emphasis throughout the book is on the incredible cooperation and commitment by so many people and on the incredible riskiness of the endeavour. Thimmesh hits you right off with the riskiness of the trip to the moon with Richard Nixon’s alternative speech. Fortunately, this speech merely sets the stage, but was never delivered. Team Moon talks about the speed with which decisions had to be made when things went wrong – such as the frozen fuel slug – and the background work that went into each and every decision. Filled with interesting photos, segments and lots of great inspirational moments, Team Moon received the 2007 ALSC Sibert Informational Book Medal. --Andrea