Monday, November 16, 2020

Middle of November Cybils Reading

I'm a Round 1 Nonfiction judge so I'm reading as many of the nominated books in my triple category as I can. There's the picture books, the middle grade books, and the high school books, all clamoring for my attention. And I'm having problems concentrating, which I completely blame on COVID. And stuff.

High School Nonfiction

.The Spectrum Girl’s Survival Guide

The Spectrum Girl's Survival Guide, Sienna Castellon. Written by a high school woman with autism, this is a inside look at how to navigate adolescence as a girl on the spectrum. Chapter cover specific details ranging from make up and dating to dealing with bullying from students or teaching staff. I liked the organization; it was pleasant to read cover to cover but would have been easy to zero in on specific concerns if I need that. And there were many brief cartoons pulling out specific issues or strategies, and these did a great job of representing many different kinds of girls. 

Since it's written from a specific point of view, it also works a bit like a memoir, and a lot of time it seemed the advice would be vague and general before zeroing in on exactly what did and didn't work for Castellon's specific situation. Which makes sense since that is what she knows about but makes the book less handy for the general case. Not everyone will face the same kind of bullying, and although the book points out there are different ways to respond there isn't really any good guide for what those other ways might look like in practice. 

Jane Against the World: Roe v. Wade and the Fight for Reproductive Rights

Jane Against the World, Karen Blumenthal. Still reading. For some reason I'm having problems reading about how casually people are horrid to women in the past; maybe because they haven't really stopped in the present. So I shall jump to more human positive stories to carry me through. 

Middle Grade Nonfiction

The Screaming Hairy Armadillo and 76 Other Animals with Weird, Wild NamesWild Girl: How to Have Incredible Outdoor AdventuresA Sporting Chance: How Paralympics Founder Ludwig Guttmann Saved Lives with SportsWomen's Art Work: More than 30 Female Artists Who Changed the World

Screaming Hairy Armadillo, Matthew Murrie. A collection of animals with loudly interesting names, silly or cute or scary. Each animal gets a picture and an explanation of how it got that name and some interesting facts about it, followed by its habitat and a fun fact. The tone is breezy and light hearted. This is the kind of list book that kids enjoy.

Wild Girl: How to Have Incredible Outdoor Adventures, Helen Skelton. I think Skelton is a mini-celebrity; she was on Blue Peter in the UK for years and is a BBC person who does a lot of sports? And gardening? I've never heard of her, but I was surprised how much I enjoyed this book. Apparently a lot of her job is finding things to do for charity, and the bigger the thing the better. Nice work if you can get it, and definitely better her than me, as the things she found to do included running an ultramarathon through a desert, paddling a kayak down the entire Amazon river, tightrope walking between two buildings, and biking to the South Pole. For each one she brings her amazing enthusiasm. She's willing to do almost anything except quit, and she acknowledges how much she needs her support team to make things work but also how far she goes on sheer stubbornness and a bit of luck. One challenge she includes involves a failure -- she didn't manage to carry the pack the whole walk when she did the final march with the British Special Forces trainees, and she's still mad about quitting (and not training for!) that. The pages are quick and breezy, and she follows a similar format for each of her adventures -- what she did, how it worked and felt, the problems and successes, with sections for Best and Worst for everything, and then the chapters end with suggestions for readers to do for adventures and a group of amazing women and what they have achieved in that area. Then on to the next gig -- cold adventures? Water adventures? City adventures?

I didn't get much of a sense of her as a person beyond a gritty stubbornness and I wondered exactly how these adventures worked and how she assembled the support teams, but I'm not sure kids care about that. It's not a very deep book but it's a fun one and may inspire kids to go outside a few times. 

A Sporting Chance: How Paralympics Founder Ludwig Guttmann Saved Lives With Sports, Lori Alexander. I really enjoyed this book about the history of the Paralympics, or a biography of Ludwig Guttmann and how he revolutionized the treatment of spinal injuries. The illustrations really made it work for me; there were photographs and text boxes, but most of them where cheerful light cartoons that somehow made reading about war injuries and the Guttmann's flight from the Nazi's not overwhelming. Sometimes they were illustrating a piece of the text and sometimes they were doodles in the side, but I thought the overall design worked really well. And the topic was fascinating.

I'm a bit leery of savior narratives, but this one tried to avoid that by starting with a man getting injured (he ends up as one of the first patients in the new treatment center) and ending with a collection of athletes, with photos showing their strength and glory. So it's a story of people dealing with their lives, not of a doctor who saves the pathetic victims.

Women's Art Work: More Than 30 Female Artists Who Changed the World, Sophia Bennett. I think this is put out in some way by the Tate? It does what it says on the tin -- gathering together many artists with an essay on their lives and art and its influence. If the artist was still alive there was often a short interview about what they see as their influence or inspirations. 

I wasn't terribly keen on the format. There was often only a small picture of the artist's work, but a lot of decorations around which made it hard to appreciate. The interviews were done in alternating cursive fonts, which to made them less accessible -- they looked dull and honestly, they probably are less accessible since a lot of kids today don't learn cursive very well. And I wasn't really sold on how all of the art changed the world. I'm a curmudgeon.

Elementary Nonfiction

Resist!: Peaceful Acts That Changed Our WorldThe Very Oldest Pear TreeA Ben of All Trades: The Most Inventive Boyhood of Benjamin FranklinMarie Curie and the Power of Persistence

Resist! Peaceful Acts That Changed Our World, Diane Stanley.  This is a collection of short essays accompanied by a lovely but static portrait of the people being celebrated. There's a wide variety of people and types of resistance, from Ruth Bader Ginsburg to Gandhi to the Tank Guy in Tiananmen Square. Some were successful, some just laid groundwork for future success. Some chose their work, some had their path thrust upon them.

I'm a bit worried about the text-picture ratio; it's definitely a book with big pictures in it rather than a picture book. But it's a good showcase of many peaceful people who have fought hard for a better world. 

The Very Oldest Pear Tree, Nancy I. Sanders. The story of Endicott pears, or especially the tree that originated them. Planted by an early Massachusetts governor, it lasted through the American Revolution (they sent John Adams some pies from it), through the Civil War, through the Civil Rights Movement (some vandals tried to murder it by chopping off branches) and into the present day, where it's still giving pears to make pies and jelly. A fun angle for history.

A Ben of All Trades, Michael J Rosen. The apprenticing of Benjamin Franklin, shown as he rejects all the trades his father finds for him but keeps inventing new swimming techniques that would come in handy if he were allowed to go for a sailor. From each trade he does learn something that he is clever enough to put into practice, but eventually settles from the interestingly varied life at a printing shop, and from their to fame. 

I like the afterward where Rosen talks about building the story around known pieces of history, and what is definitely fact, what is probable, what is likely, and what is possible. 
Marie Curie and the Power of Persistence, Karla Valenti. This history of the Nobel Prize winning scientists introduces a supervillain and a minion who recognize her potential and strive to foil her, but her persistence defeats them. It kinda works for me as a metaphor for the misogyny that held her back as she worked to get education and opportunities, except that she converts the minion to her side by the end of the book. But it gives a fun twist to the story of her life, and gives some more action to the illustrations as the minion is in there somewhere discouraging reading or making commutes more onerous or whatever it can attempt t o do.

Honeybee: The Busy Life of Apis MelliferaLet's Fly a Plane!: Launching Into the Science of Flight with Aerospace EngineeringThe Oldest Student: How Mary Walker Learned to ReadRuth Objects: The Life of Ruth Bader GinsburgCaribou

Honeybee: The Busy Life of Apis Mellifera, Candace Fleming.This large, richly illustrated (painted? with a large image on each page) book follows the life of a bee from emerging from its pupa-cell through its death. I hadn't realized that hives aren't specialized by task; instead a bee cycles through each job as it matures so that its wings have a change to develop and strengthen before it goes on its nectar quests. So we see Apis tending eggs, building honeycomb, tending the queen, etc. before it flies off to find flowers and bring back sisters to harvest their nectar. And then to die of exhaustion, just as the next bee emerges. It's a good balance between not personifying the bee but still having a strong narrative.

The back matter includes a large diagram of bee parts and further information and resources.

Let's Fly a Plane!, Chris Ferrie. An eager but clueless red kangaroo wants to fly, so he goes to an aerospace engineer for advice. Kids following along get to learn about the four forces (lift, thrust, weight, drag! I remembered them, so it worked!) and how they work together to end up with a plane flying (one hopes). Not quite Kangaroo's original plan, but something that works!

I liked the backmatter, which includes good comprehension questions (probably why I remembered the forces) and some activities that demonstrate the principles covered in the book with paper airplanes and straw rockets. But I found the kangaroo an annoying and slightly condescending audience stand in. I think the book is from Australia; maybe it reads differently there. 

The Oldest Student: How Mary Walker Learned to Read, Rita Lorraine Hubbard. Wow. Born into slavery, then living through Jim Crow, Mary Walker never had the opportunity for school, although she treasured the Bible she received during Reconstruction. But she treasured the times her children would read to her. When her last child died she decided it was time to learn herself; she was over 100 at the time. It was a good call -- she had 20 years left to enjoy her new skill.

The illustrations are appealing, and I liked the way squiggles on store fronts in early pages eventually turned into words after Walker learned to decipher them. They are collage-y in tone and fun to explore. But I have to admit I was distracted from the inspiring literacy story by the amazing age Walker reached. OK, she was the oldest student, but she also the oldest everything! It's hard to imagine that we overlapped; that I was born while a woman could tell me about her experiences in the Civil War, although she died before I would have paid attention. 

Ruth Objects, Doreen Rappaport. This picture book biography moves quickly past details of her private life (childhoom, death of mom, marriage to Marty) to concentrate on her career, showing her work as a lawyer arguing before the supreme court, her nomination as judge, and her elevation to the supreme court. It doesn't mince facts about the barriers to women but addresses those as part of a wider focus on human rights; Ginsberg was as likely to take cases where men were disadvantaged because of it (women's spouses often weren't eligible for military or retirement benefits) then ones where women were the plaintiffs. 

It's a bit text heavy, and the illustrations are attractive but not very dynamic. They are like portraits that accompany the text. But I think a good reader could make this interesting either to individual kids or in a class setting. Of course, reading it now after her death and the ugly Republican rush to replace her with someone they hope will repeal most of her work is a bit bittersweet.

Caribou, Dorothy and David Aglukark. An appealing animal picture book with details of the Canadian animal's habits, anatomy, and relationship with First People. The illustrations are photo realistic drawings, appealing,  easy to understand and relatable. Every page spread covers one or sometimes two topics. I have some quibbles with the organization but it's definitely the kind of book that young animal lovers enjoy; this is the kind of thing I matched kindergarteners with for about 60% of my time as a library volunteer.

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Hello? The Election Is Over! Let's Move On!

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?
Gee, my fellow Americans never tire of making America look even dumber. I remember when I could respect Republicans, even vote for them. Now they seem to be the party of corruption and lies. But a good percentage of Americans like that sort of thing. Nice to know.

I went for a run and it was cold but then after twenty minutes I started to warm up. And then after ten more minutes I was hot, and ten minutes later I was done. Humph. I almost ran twice, but the second time I actually just fell back asleep and dreamt I went running. The new neighborhood park I found that doubled as a tiger refuge should probably have been a hint. But when I finally woke up from that very convincing dream I had already exhausted all the gumption that keeps me going when I don't want to. (Which is pretty much all the time I am jogging along.)

I made myself a pesto lasagna to eat for lunches, and then I scared my sister away from my sausage/mozzarella soup by mentioning mushrooms, so I had lots of leftovers. But we also had Friday Book Club, which always means PIZZA.  

I managed to do a little bit of my Cybils homework.

I pulled out reviews of the Cybils books to a separate blog, which was also late. Lots of picture books there. 

My currently reading has stayed bloated to 26, indicating the problem I continue to have finishing anything. At least it has slowed its climb.

The Book Date does a weekly roundup of what people are reading, want to read, or have read each week called "It's Monday! What Are You Reading" so I'll sign up there. Ditto for the children's lit version at either Teach Mentor Texts or Unleashing Readers. I will be eligible there for the next few months for sure!


Paladin's GraceA Sporting Chance: How Paralympics Founder Ludwig Guttmann Saved Lives with SportsWomen's Art Work: More than 30 Female Artists Who Changed the World
Wild Girl: How to Have Incredible Outdoor AdventuresThe Screaming Hairy Armadillo and 76 Other Animals with Weird, Wild NamesCy Young: An American Baseball Hero

Paladin's Grace, T. Kingfisher. For my 2nd Friday book club.

A Sporting Chance, Lori Alexander.  Cybils nominee.

Women's Art Work,  Sophia Bennett. Cybils nominee.

Wild Girl, Helen Skelton. Cybils nominee.

Screaming Hairy Armadillo, Matthew Murrie. Cybils nominee.

Cy Young, Scott H. Longert. Cybils nominee.


A Sporting Chance: How Paralympics Founder Ludwig Guttmann Saved Lives with SportsWomen's Art Work: More than 30 Female Artists Who Changed the WorldWild Girl: How to Have Incredible Outdoor AdventuresThe Screaming Hairy Armadillo and 76 Other Animals with Weird, Wild Names
The Spectrum Girl’s Survival GuidePaladin's GraceGrimoire Noir

A Sporting Chance, Lori Alexander.  Cybils nominee.

Women's Art Work,  Sophia Bennett. Cybils nominee.

Wild Girl, Helen Skelton. Cybils nominee.

Screaming Hairy Armadillo, Matthew Murrie. Cybils nominee.

Spectrum Girl's Survival Guide, Sienna Castellon. Cybils nominee.

Paladin's Grace, T. Kingfisher. This was great, and more importantly my book either liked it or intended to like it. I had recommended it and that's always stressful for me. Some people even went out and read some more Kingfisher books, which is a sign of approval. It was also pandemic-approved; a little bit more complex than our last few picks but not alarmingly so. Charming and I'm on to the wizard baking one next.

Grimoire Noir, Vera Greentea. 2020 Cybils YA Graphic Novel finalist. This didn't really work for me. I struggle with remembering people's faces, so I often have problems knowing who is who in graphic books. The main character was the only boy, a teen who is fiercely jealous that only girls get magical powers but also terrified for his missing sister. He runs around to various girls in town searching for her. And all those girls are drawn in completely different ways and yet I kept getting them all mixed up. And the boy was a bad friend and a poor detective and I really didn't like him much, and the situation in town was fairly complicated with ancient curses and murder and magical boundaries, but I didn't care enough to keep it straight in my head so the ending where everything came together felt a bit flat to me. 

Bookmarks Moved (Or Languished) In:

Uncompromising Honor (Honor Harrington, #14)Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (Harry Potter, #1)Black Leopard, Red WolfA Long Time Until Now
Children of Time (Children of Time #1)The Pleasant Profession of Robert A. HeinleinThe LuminariesSomeplace to Be Flying (Newford, #8)
The Bone Witch (The Bone Witch, #1)The Bourne Supremacy (Jason Bourne, #2)Return of the Thief (The Queen's Thief, #6)Wolf Rebel (SWAT, #10)
A Lady's Code of Misconduct (Rules for the Reckless, #5)Jane Against the World: Roe v. Wade and the Fight for Reproductive RightsFinder (Finder Chronicles, #1)The Wine-Dark Sea (Aubrey & Maturin #16)

OK, this is getting a bit ridiculous. But I'm honestly keeping active bookmarks in all of these!

Uncompromising Honor 38/??, David Weber. Baen Free Radio Hour's serial. So something has gone wrong with something.

Harry Potter, J.K. Rowling. I'm listening to celebrities read this to me

Black Leopard, Red Wolf, Marlon James. Sword and Laser pick. 

A Long Time Until Now, Michael Z Williamson.

Children of Time, Adrian Tchaikovsky. 

The Pleasant Profession of Robert A Heinlein, Farah Mendelson. Hugo finalist. 

The Luminaries, Eleanor Catton. 

Someplace To Be Flying, Charles de Lint. Making progress. 

The Bone Witch, Rin Chupeco. 

The Bourne Supremacy, Robert Ludlum. 

Return of the Thief, Megan Whalen Turner. I'm really enjoying this, and then I realized if I finished it that would be the end. So now I'm torturing myself by not moving on from the middle of the story. 

Wolf Rebel, Paige Tyler. Substitute for my Library Quest: Action/Thriller bag. I like the set up but I'm not sure of the twist.

A Lady's Code of Misconduct, Meredith Duran. Again, I liked the set up but I'm bogged in the middle.

Jane Against the World, Karen Blumenthal. 2020 nominee. 

Finder, Suzanne Palmer. Sword and Laser pick. Not finishing this means I'm behind on the podcast as well!

The Wine-Dark Sea, Patrick O'Brien. My Tuesday book club book. I'm behind.

Picture Books / Short Stories:

Resist!: Peaceful Acts That Changed Our WorldMarie Curie and the Power of PersistenceA Ben of All Trades: The Most Inventive Boyhood of Benjamin FranklinThe Very Oldest Pear Tree
Ruth Objects: The Life of Ruth Bader GinsburgThe Oldest Student: How Mary Walker Learned to ReadLet's Fly a Plane!: Launching Into the Science of Flight with Aerospace EngineeringCaribou

These Cybils nominees are discussed on the previous Cybils post.
Duel!: Burr and Hamilton's Deadly War of WordsThe Bad Guys: Episode 1Wangari's Trees of Peace: A True Story from AfricaFrogs

Duel! Burr and Hamilton's Deadly War of Words, Dennis Brindell Fradin. 2008 Cybils nonfiction picture book finalist. Rich illustrations trace the parallel and then intersecting lives of early Americans, stressing the early similarities and then showing how they kept sniping at them. Well, apparently Hamilton did most of the sniping and Burr the complaining? Until the fight, when history decided the loser was the winner and the winner was the loser. I bet kids would be extra interested now because of the musical.

Bad Guys, Aaron Blabey. For my younger kids (2/3 grade) book club, which only two kids showed up for. They were both fun and chatty kids, but one had only read the first few pages and the other had read the entire series, so listening to them together was hilarious. But they seemed to enjoy themselves. I wanted to ask them whether they agreed with the book's definition of BAD, which they weren't that interested in, and then we tried to come up with more good deed for them to mess up. An interesting point was that the kids had apparently no memory of Little Red Riding Hood, so the whole Big Bad Wolf had already gone over their heads, even the fan who had read a pile of these. 

Wangari's Trees of Peace, Jeannette Winter. 2008 Cybils nonfiction picture book finalist. I really like the story of the scientist Wangari returning home to Kenya for her doctorate and discovering that they were eliminating their forests, and then she started fixing that, working with women from villages who were suffering from the lack of readily available wood for their stoves. But it lost some credit with me because I read a different biography in the pre-pandemic time that I really liked, so I didn't have the thrill of learning new stuff. 

Frogs, Nic Bishop. 2008 Cybils nonfiction picture book finalist. Lots of great photos. It's possible I read this back then, as I had a reader very into aquatic animals and frogs would have been on the fringes of his passion. I assumed he took all the pictures in the wild (I guess by magic) but in the backmatter he talks about how some frogs were his pets and how he had to train them to jump for food and stuff without being bothered by all the equipment needed to take action photographs in such sharp focus. 

Palate Cleansers

These books I'm barely reading; I use them as palate cleansers between books I'm actually reading.

The Educated Child: A Parents Guide from Preschool Through Eighth GradeGive All to Love (Sanguinet Saga, #11)Wool (Wool, #1)
Sorcerer to the Crown (Sorcerer Royal, #1)Under the Eye of the StormReading and Learning to Read

The Educated Child, William Bennett. How to assess a school.

Give All to Love, Patricia Veryan. 

Wool, Hugh Howey. 

Sorcerer to the Crown, Zen Cho. Men and women are from different planets. 

Under the Eye of the Storm, John Hersey. It's sometimes hard to connect to people.

Reading and Learning to Read, Jo Anne Vaca. Other kind of diversity and teacher responses to it.

Reading Challenges
  1. Cybils 2017. None. I just need 3 YA books to be done. But YA is hard. 
  2. Cybils 2018. None.
  3. Cybils 2019. Finished Grimoire Noir.
  4. Early Cybils: Several nonfiction picture books.
  5. Reading My Library. Working on the action adventure one. 
  6. Ten to Try. At 9/10. I'm STILL working on the last one. 
  7. Where Am I Reading: 29/51 states. 27 Countries. My books didn't take place in places this week.
  8. Book Riot's Read Harder Challenge.  I'm done.


I'm putting this at the end because I suspect it's complete fiction, but I feel I should attempt some structure.

I am reading: 
  • Book I own: Return of the Thief. Next: No idea.
  • Library Book: Wolf Rebel. Next: The Bride book.
  • Ebook I own: None. Up Next: Probably a T. Kingfisher.
  • Library Ebook: I need to finish either Bourne Supremacy or Luminaries. Next. But I'll probably read a David Baldacci instead.
  • Book Club Book: None. Next: The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane.
  • Tuesday Book Club Book: Wine Dark Sea. Next/also: Somewhere To Be Flying until we pick something.
  • Review Book: None. Up Next: Not sure.
  • Hugo Book: The Pleasant Profession of Robert A Heinlein. Next: Joanna Russ.