Here's some of the interesting things that I want to hold onto: There's a chapter whose principle is "teach your garden to weed itself." In it, the authors discuss King Solomon and David Lee Roth, but the most interesting story in it for me was about Nigerian scammers. We've all gotten those scam emails from people claiming to be a Nigerian prince with a bit of a cash flow problem. These emails are such obvious scams that one wonders why they don't try to be more subtle with it. Well, Levitt and Dubner explain that the Nigerian scammers deal with thousands of "false positives"--people who email back and forth with them for a while, but then wise up and back out. To weed out those people, they need to make their emails SUPER obvious so that only the truly gullible will respond.
Another, earlier chapter, deals with Kobayashi, the famous championship hot dog eater who revoutionized the way we saw competitive eating. For some reason, my dad is really into Kobayashi, so I'm familiar with him. Anyway, Kobayashi set out to beat the record for competitive hot dog eating, completely obliterating the record by eating over 50 hot dogs, when 30 was thought to be impossible. How'd he do it? By thinking outside the box. He realized that eating a hot dog the traditional way, while more pleasurable, was not efficient when it came to an eating contest. After all, when the goal was just to eat as many hot dogs as possible, pleasure wasn't the goal. So he did something no one had tried before--separated the hot dog from the bun (among other techniques, which are nearly universally used today in hot dog eating contests).
A final example (though there are plenty of fascinating stories) is Smile Train, an organization that gives money to doctors in developing countries to fix children's cleft lips. The ramifications of this corrective surgery are far-reaching, and can affect a child's entire future. Smile Train did something when it came to their fundraising that seems counterintuitive--sent mailers that stated, "if you give to us, we'll never bother you again." This doesn't seem to make sense, because it takes a lot of effort, time and money to gain a new donor. However, this tactic not only increased giving, but most of the new donors actually continued to give, rather than dropping off after a one-time gift. It seems that the donors appreciated that Smile Train acknowledged that these types of campaigns can be emotionally manipulative and play off of guilt. This fresh approach made them think twice about giving and reconsider their nos.
Now, in my mind, Think Like a Freak: The Authors of Freakonomics Offer to Retrain Your Brain isn't as successful as the first two books. It's not that it's not a great book, but I didn't feel like it offered anything fresh like it claimed to. You could really sum up the whole book with "think outside the box." Also, the ending seemed to peter off and it's quite short (under 200 pages if you don't include the notes). It's a good supplement to the first two books, but no substitute.(less)
If you're looking for something more anthropological, this isn't the book for you. Druckerman is merely sharing what she's observed over the years, and does not go about collecting evidence in a scientific fashion. Rather, she shares her experiences with her children and French parents. She does give the disclaimer that her book is about middle-class (seems more like upper-middle to me) children in Paris (rural areas have different rules), but she does make a lot of statements like "French children do ____" or "French parents say ____" so that can be misleading. The ironic thing really is that Druckerman writes that French parents don't claim to be disciples of any schools of thought, and parenting books aren't widely read and obsessed over like they are here, but I can see many people (including myself) reading this book and wanting to practice "the French parenting method."
Certainly there's lots to learn and think about when it comes to this book, but there are downsides to French parenting, which are minimally discussed (after all, that's probably not why people want to read this book). For example, Druckerman states that most French mothers don't breastfeed, and that they seem to be pretty unwelcoming towards outsiders (no one would talk to her at the park--sad trombone). I can't really comment about whether adopting a "French parenting style" will be effective or better than a typical American style, because I haven't tried it, but I found a lot of the ideas really intriguing.
Here are some of the ideas that I want to remember: 1. Sleep training. Druckerman says that most French babies "do their nights" (aka sleep through the night) by 2 months old, which is very unusual here in America. While the thought of crying it out seems barbaric to the French parents, they do practice what Druckerman coins "the Pause," wherein they wait 5 minutes to attend to their baby after the baby starts crying. Sometimes the baby is just crying out in their sleep, and they can self-soothe and fall back asleep. Druckerman makes the argument that American parents are in fact waking up their children by rushing in the minute they start crying and actually teaching them inadvertently to wake up more in the middle of the night. It's really interesting how intuitive the French parenting is: the parents believe that their children will sleep through the night because the babies just know instinctively that their parents need the sleep.
2. Eating habits. Druckerman writes that French children rarely snack, and instead have meals at set times. Even if they are out with their parents and pick out a treat, they have to wait until meal time to eat it. This is obviously a far cry from the parents in America who just HAVE to have tons of snacks on hand at all time. Moreover, French children are not as picky as American children--you just don't see French children who only eat food that is one color, or only eat meat, or some of the more extreme pickiness that you see here. The French children even know the difference between Camembert and Brie. This is one of the most important things to me: raising a child who is a diverse eater, and who can appreciate good food (and isn't addicted to junk). I really liked the strategy of offering food to a child in various preparations, that just because the child says that they don't like it, they may still like it prepared in a different way. And of course, preparing food in as fresh a way as possible helps!
3. Having a separate identity other than mom. I've become acutely aware of the fact that most of the mothers I know with children under school age stay at home. This is not currently part of my future plans (though I am always open to change), so I think it's interesting how French women don't let motherhood become their primary identity. Very few college-educated women become stay at home moms and give up their careers, and they believe that it's unhealthy to spend all their time with their children. I think that being a stay at home mom is great--just probably not for me. But what I liked about Druckerman's argument is that she says that American moms are driven by guilt. She says, "guilt is an emotional tax we pay for going to work, not buying organic vegetables, or plopping our kids in front of the television so we can surf the Internet or make dinner." Americans are trying to balance by not screwing any one part of their lives up, while the French are trying to balance by not letting one part of their life take over too much.
I try to make it a point to read everything that Gene Luen Yang writes, though I particularly enjoy the graphic novels that he has also illustrated. (...moreI try to make it a point to read everything that Gene Luen Yang writes, though I particularly enjoy the graphic novels that he has also illustrated. (I really like his illustration style--simple, but able to convey emotion well.) Of those works that he did NOT illustrate, I think I enjoyed The Shadow Hero the most. Yang captures the Asian American experience so well without having to speak broadly and overgeneralize. In The Shadow Hero, he takes an obscure superhero, the Green Turtle, who appeared briefly in 1944, and fleshes out his story. According to the notes in the back of the book, the Green Turtle was created by a Chinese American who wanted the superhero to be Chinese. However, he wasn't allowed to, so the artist kept the Green Turtle's face covered up. His back was constantly turned and the reader didn't know much of the hero's backstory.
In The Shadow Hero, a Chinese teen helps his father run his Chinatown store. His mother, who works as a housekeeper for a white family, is saved one day by a superhero and becomes convinced that her son needs to become one, too. She spends every day badgering him to try to find some latent superpower, to no avail, until she discovers a Batman-esque Superhero with no superpowers. So she sets him to train to become a superhero, which he resists, until his father is murdered by the Chinatown mafia. I thought that this was such a clever twist to the whole prodigy issue (see Waverly and June's stories in The Joy Luck Club) in Asian American lit.
If you're interested in reading a superhero story through an Asian American lens, this is your book.
I was just talking with my co-worker about how I haven't really read any good YA books in a while. I've read some that were OK, but nothing really ama...moreI was just talking with my co-worker about how I haven't really read any good YA books in a while. I've read some that were OK, but nothing really amazing, beautifully written, or that sucked me into the world. Well, I still haven't found anything yet. There Will Come a Time was good enough, but it wasn't really as compelling as it could have been (although I still want to read National Book Award finalist Out of Reach). Author Carrie Arcos came to our library for a YA author panel, and I wanted to read her book(s), so I decided to check it out. I am always on the lookout for good YA realistic fiction, as it's hard to come by books that don't have werewolves, vampires, zombies, fairies, angels, or a dystopian world.
There Will Come a Time is narrated by a boy named Mark Santos (who is Filipino! I can't think of many YA books with Asian-American characters, much less Filipino) starting off senior year at his performing arts high school. Over the summer, his twin sister died in a crash that he was also involved in. Throughout the summer, he's been struggling with a lot of things, but mainly what it's like being a "twinless twin." There's guilt that he survived and she didn't, anger toward the driver in the accident, and a lack of interest in doing anything. All he does is go to the Colorado St. Bridge (a bridge I have driven across many a time), the site of Grace's death, and participate in an online support group, Twinless Twins. Mark and his next door neighbor Hanna (who he has a crush on, and was a friend of Grace's) find a note in Grace's journals about a bucket list of sorts: things that she wants to do in the coming year, like read a spoken word piece, go bungee jumping, etc. They decide to do all of these things together, to kind of commemorate Grace's life. Along the way, Mark learns to make peace with Grace's death and continue on with life.
This wasn't really a book that drew me in, and I'm not sure I'd recommend it because as far as realistic fiction goes, there's plenty I like more, including others that deal with loss (I suppose if someone was looking for a book about twin loss...). But there were plenty of things that I did like in the book, like the setting, which was really recognizable if you're familiar with Northeast LA (Mark lives in Eagle Rock, which is also where I went to college). Also, I really can't think of another Filipino YA character in literature, and his friends were also quite diverse as well. This could be good for a YA book club or display about books that take place in LA.
Although I KNEW in my head that B.J. Novak's new book was a collection of fictional short stories, that didn't stop me from comparing it in my mind to...moreAlthough I KNEW in my head that B.J. Novak's new book was a collection of fictional short stories, that didn't stop me from comparing it in my mind to the essays in Novak's BFF (and will-they-won't-they-on-and-off-girlfriend) Mindy Kaling's book Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? Both her book and Tina Fey's Bossypants were entertaining (if uneven) and provided a humorous look into the life of a celebrity (which, I'm only sort of ashamed to admit that I love). I realized that I didn't quite have a handle on Novak's sense of humor, although I know that he wrote "Diversity Day" (the only good episode of the The Office's first season) and "The Fire" (which I LOVE), unlike Fey's or Kaling's. From reading One More Thing: Stories and Other Stories, it seems that Novak's style is a bit absurdist and funny, but in a "Oh. Ha. That's funny" kind of way, not a ROFL sort of way. I'm a little skeptical of the blurbs on the book, that talk about helplessly laughing at the book. It's funny, but you have to get used to the style, and it's more of an interesting funny.
While I didn't love all of the stories (my personal view on short story collections is that they are uneven by nature, and that it's nearly impossible to enjoy all stories in a collection), what I loved about them is that they are nearly all quite short. The longest was no more than 20-30 pages, but many are 1-2 pages, and a few are even 2-3 lines long. I actually just googled my favorite one and found out that Novak had actually tweeted it in 2011: now I feel cheated! I love that the stories are so short because it makes this book perfect if you are often interrupted while reading (for example, if you read on the bus, or at work). There's an interesting story about a roller coaster based on life, and one that's kind of funny but also quite sad about a man who buys a sex robot that learns to love (and returns it). There's a sequel to the tortoise and the hare, and a story about a boy who learns that he's the illegitimate child of a Kellogg's Senior VP. The really surprising thing about One More Thing: Stories and Other Stories to me is how many real-life corporations and celebrities are depicted here, not always in the most favorable light. Were the references all cleared by representatives? Just wondering.
Another thing that I loved about this book is that while you would probably have to be somewhat cultured to enjoy it, it's not pretentious in any way. The average college grad would most likely enjoy it and understand all the references. Some short story collections are just too pretentious for my taste. You shouldn't need a PhD in Russian literature to read a short story collection. I suppose if you had to assign a theme to the book, it would probably be self-absorbed, short-sighted, shallow people. Which totally fits in with The Office humor.
If you read a lot of YA fiction, you'll know automatically what a Laurie Halse Anderson book is. Books about teen "issues," such as bulimia or rape ar...moreIf you read a lot of YA fiction, you'll know automatically what a Laurie Halse Anderson book is. Books about teen "issues," such as bulimia or rape are what she's most known for, along with the Chains historical fiction series, which I quite liked. For some reason, I got it into my head that LHA's new book, The Impossible Knife of Memory, was a dystopian zombie novel..... which is far from the case (it's another "issue" book, this time about a teen who has a parent with PTSD). I was really curious to know how LHA would do a dystopian, but nothing ever really happened and it soon became clear that this book took place in the present. The main character refers to the other high schoolers as "zombies," so maybe I read that in some blurb and that's where I got the idea.
Anyway, like I said, The Impossible Knife of Memory is about a girl named Hayley, who's moving back to her (deceased) grandmother's house after about five years on the road. Her father is a veteran who spent years in Afghanistan and has severe PTSD, as well as a drug and alcohol problem. They've moved around quite a lot, most recently as her father has taken her on the road with him for his job as a truck driver. However, he got fired from that job, just like many others along the way. Hayley hasn't been in school for years, since she's been with her father on the road, and her schoolwork is suffering because of it. She gets tutoring from cute (with abs) Finn, and reunites with her best friend Gracie. Things are starting to go well, but her father is like a bomb that could go off at any minute. Meanwhile, her Gracie and Finn have secrets in their own families.
I didn't really care for this book, and I suspect a large part of it was the audiobook narrator. I really didn't like the how she voiced the male characters--they all sounded exactly the same, from the dad to the teenage boyfriend--just a low-toned female voice. Also, I'm not a big fan of LHA's books. I do think that she is a skilled writer, and I even follow her on twitter, because she is so influential as a YA author, but she doesn't write the kind of realistic fiction that I like to read (i.e. John Green, David Levithan). I found Hayley to be whiny--I know that she had a really difficult life, but she was just an extremely unlikable character to me. However, it's interesting that this is the third or fourth book about a parent with mental illness that I've read recently. New trend?
Thank you Barbara for recommending this book to me! Ever since Barbara recommended this to me on goodreads, I've been itching to read it, but it never...moreThank you Barbara for recommending this book to me! Ever since Barbara recommended this to me on goodreads, I've been itching to read it, but it never really worked with any of my storytime themes and the class visits I do are usually wanting a readaloud on a particular topic, such as biographies or insects. So when I had some kindergarten class visits recently, I pulled it out to try it. Naturally, the kids LOVED it, oohing and ahhing at each turn of the page. It's very similar to Hervé Tullet's Press Here, but different enough that it's worth having both. I prefer Press Here, but Tap the Magic Tree has its merits, mainly the soft illustration and the large, short text (the text in Press Here is small, scribbled, and a bit hard to read, particularly upside-down and sideways, as we librarians tend to do).
I would recommend reading this book to a smaller group than I did (I read this to two groups, one of about 35 and the other of about 45). This would give all the kids the opportunity to "tap the magic tree" etc. although there's plenty of things that all the kids can do, like blow a kiss or wiggle their fingers. However, it would work really well in groups of 3-25. Of course, you can read this one on one, but I really like the interaction when there's a small group. As you turn each of the page, there is something for the kids to do, like "rub the tree" or "touch each flower bud." At each turn of the page, the kids oohed and ahhed, and one of them even gasped, "It's MAGIC!" Which of course was a great segue into reminding them the title of the book.
Ages 3-6 Highly recommended for storytimes and readalouds.(less)
My library has Diary of a Worm, Diary of a Spider, and Diary of a Fly, but I chose Diary of a Worm for my bug-themed storytime because of the line, "M...moreMy library has Diary of a Worm, Diary of a Spider, and Diary of a Fly, but I chose Diary of a Worm for my bug-themed storytime because of the line, "My older sister thinks she's so pretty. I told her that no matter how much time she spends looking in the mirror, her face will always look just like her rear end." That cracked me up. The Diary of a... books are a little wordy, but great for storytime because you can always paper clip the pages together that you want to skip, and it's easy to skip since it's in diary format and not all the entries are essential to the story. But since diary books are so in right now, I'd highly recommend this series to the little kids who aren't quite ready for Wimpy Kid.
If there's anything that I've noticed that kids love, it's a) holes in the pages that give you a little sneak peek as to what's on the following page...moreIf there's anything that I've noticed that kids love, it's a) holes in the pages that give you a little sneak peek as to what's on the following page and b) pop-ups. So even though Butterfly Butterfly: A Book of Colors had a couple of rips and tears in it (usually a no-no for a readaloud), I picked it up anyway for storytime because I knew that the kids would love it, plus it made a great tie-in to the The Very Hungry Caterpillar flannel story that we used. It's bright (with a shiny cover!), colorful, and the pop-up is really beautiful. It's also a concept book that goes through lots of colors (red ladybugs, etc.) so it would be perfect for a preschool storytime.
Ages 4-6 (the pop-up is kind of delicate for little kids, who will want to grab it)(less)
Want to make a crowd of kids a) get up off their feet and get engaged with the story and b) giggle? Read Can You Make a Scary Face?, or really, any bo...moreWant to make a crowd of kids a) get up off their feet and get engaged with the story and b) giggle? Read Can You Make a Scary Face?, or really, any book by Jan Thomas. I would recommend purchasing this as a reference book for visiting classes or even if you just need a storytime book. In the book, a ladybug gets the kids to stand up, sit down, and make faces. It's awesome. It works much better for a readaloud than one-on-one, because it's so interactive and you can get more energy going with a crowd.
My review for School Library Journal was published on June 1.
Here it is:
Gr 5-8--Karn would rather be playing his beloved board game, "thrones and bone
...moreMy review for School Library Journal was published on June 1.
Here it is:
Gr 5-8--Karn would rather be playing his beloved board game, "thrones and bones," than learning to become hauld of his father's farm, which has been passed down many generations. He meets Thianna, a half-giant, half-human girl who longs to fit in with the club-wielding frost giants, the only community she's ever known. When a tragedy reminiscent of Shakespeare's Hamlet occurs, the two pair up in order to survive. They soon realize the danger that they're in and that they need each other's unique skills to survive. Aside from the sometimes difficult-to-decipher Norse names, the language is quite easy to understand and that, coupled with the shorter-than-your-average-fantasy length, makes this an excellent choice for readers new to the genre. The themes of staying true to oneself, teamwork, and individuality will resonate with readers. Fans of Matthew Kirby's Icefall (Scholastic, 2011) who bemoaned the lack of magic in that book will enjoy this new series. A good addition to a fantasy collection with potential for future entries. Jessica Ko, Los Angeles Public Library. 320p. SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL, c2014.
I don't know that I have much to add to this review. I'm not the biggest fan of Norse fantasy/mythology, but I tried to be neutral as I read it. I could definitely see this being popular with fans of the genre.(less)
Although A Snicker of Magic wasn't my favorite middle grade (still waiting for this year's The One and Only Ivan or Okay for Now), I did really like it. I'm surprised that I wasn't in love with it, though, because it has a lot of components that I love in a book. It's about a girl named Felicity Pickle who moves to Midnight Gulch with her mom and sister, where her mama's from. Felicity's never really had a friend because her mom kept them moving around so much in their van, the Pickled Jalapeno. When Felicity moves to Midnight Gulch, she makes a friend named Jonah, and falls in love with the town. Midnight Gulch used to have magic, that ran in families. There was a family who could capture shadows. Another family could make you remember things with their famous ice cream, Blackberry Sunrise. It wasn't big magic, like being able to fly or turn back time. But now, most of the magic is gone and there's just "a snicker left." Felicity has always had a snicker of magic herself. She has always been able to see words surrounding a person or situation, and considers herself a word collector. She writes them down, and writes poetry, too. She meets her extended family and falls in love with them as well as the town. But she learns that there's a generational curse on her family, one that influences her mom's constant need to move around. She wants to break the curse and get to stay in Midnight Gulch, as well as release the magic inherent in the town. Will she and Jonah be able to do it before her mom decides it's time to skip town?
As is to be expected, since the main character loves words, there are some particularly lovely turns of phrase here. Here's my favorite quote in the book:
“Mama glanced down at me. "Do you have a crush on him?" "Not a crush." I shook my head. "More like an inflate. He makes me feel the opposite of crushed. He makes my heart feel like a balloon, like it's going to blow up and fly right out of my chest.”
I love it.
Check out the other quotes for the book in the goodreads page for this book. Natalie Lloyd has a wonderful way with words. If you like magical realism, folksy narrators (thankfully not as folksy as Three Times Lucky, and books with heart, check this one out.