Posts Tagged ‘children’s non-fiction’

For a purpose

Friday, 25 March 2011
Cover of "A Book About The Four Seasons (...

Cover of A Book About The Four Seasons (blr)

I mightn’t have got to discussing this yet, but I think it might be of interest to one of my blog buddies, Hakea, so here goes.

41. Caps, Hats, Socks & Mittens: A Book About the Four Seasons by Louise Borden

Basically this is a book of drawings and statements of things that happen during the four seasons, from a mid to northern US perspective. (Winter is snowy, summer is hot, spring and autumnfall are distinguishable and the flags and cultural events are American.) For each season we get expected weather, activities, food and clothes, along with drawings of kids enjoying themselves appropriately.

Honestly, I think this book could be great for inspiring discussions about the different seasons and favoured activities etc. The downside is that I don’t find it to read all that comfortably as a single entity. I think I want it to be poetic, and it really isn’t (and doesn’t claim to be).

A couple of kids’ classics

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

NaBloPoMo Jan2011These may not be their absolutely best-known works, but for young children these are authors I just don’t think you can go wrong with! I’ll be scouring Bookmooch for more by them for my little girl. Hopefully by the time she’s really ready to enjoy books we’ll have a selection. (These were the only ones available in country for the moment.)

Cover of Richard Scarry's Things to Love

Cover of Richard Scarry's Things to Love

7. Richard Scarry’s Things to Love

I actually don’t think I’d come across this particular title before, but it didn’t disappoint. Like the other Scarry books I’ve seen (admittedly hardly any in the last couple of decades since my brother got past them) this isn’t a story or even a collection of stories. Instead there’s a theme to the book with a sub-theme on each page or spread, with highly anthropomorphised animals displaying the action or behaviours described or implied in the sentences and short paragraphs on each page. The pictures are bright and cheerful, in Scarry’s distinctive style.

This particular book, as the title suggests, is about people, things and activities young children might love or enjoy, and in the case of the ‘people’ who  should love them back. It’s perhaps slightly ‘old-fashioned’ (the children play croquet, not computer games), but hopefully without sounding too much like an old curmudgeon I don’t mind that – I’m sure we’ll end up with some newer books for DD too!

Cover of "Dr. Seuss's ABC (I Can Read It ...

Cover via Amazon

8. Dr. Seuss’s ABC: An Amazing Alphabet Book

We certainly couldn’t do without Dr Seuss! DH hadn’t heard of Richard Scarry, but I’m pretty sure he’d agree on this one. We’ve actually got the board book version of this, which should mean DD can handle it herself earlier, so that’s good. I have no intention of pushing her, but I’ve heard a few people say this one got their kids recognising letters well under the age of two years. If that happens well enough; if it doesn’t that’s fine too.

Insomniac Book Recall

Sunday, 1 November 2009

Time to catch up on the Reading 2009 list a little…

29. A Victorian Childhood: At School by Ruth Thomson

This is an informative, well-illustrated series, with this a good example of it. It’s certainly aimed at a primary school audience, but is not to be scorned for older children.

30. Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn

This is one of my favourite novels, and I’m rather surprised I didn’t reread it in 2008 as well. It’s epistolary (told through letters exchanged between various of the characters), which is the perfect format to show the severe loss of letters in this independent island off North America. Funny, clever, literate (far more than I at 4am…) with characters to be cared about. What’s not to like?

ETA: I’ve had a verbal comment that my readers are going to know what ‘epistolary’ means, and to be honest, in the light of day I’m sure you all will, but as the title and text suggest, I wrote this post in the middle of the night, when I wasn’t so sure.

Book Update

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

I know that at the moment people are probably more interested in a crochet update, but some of these books were read literally weeks ago, and I’m actually enthusiastic about discussing the more recent ones, so on we go:

12. Eldest by Christopher Paolini

In this book both the story and Paolini’s writing skills widen and improve. He brings in several additional points of view and threads to the story, which add interest and excitement during Eragon and Saphira’s long training period. That is important for the ongoing tale, but Paolini was wise enough to recognise that he wouldn’t have been able to spend so long on it, or to go into so much depth with it, if that’s all that had been happening in a large portion of what is supposed to be an adventure story.

I amn’t going to claim that Paolini has matured into a a brilliant author in either this or Brisingr (see below, presuming I catch up that far tonight), but the steady improvement gives me a lot more hope for the promise he shows than Eragon did alone.

13. Explaining Cerebral Palsy by Sarah Levete
14. Explaining Asthma by Angela Royston
15. Explaining Autism by Robert Snedden
16. Explaining Diabetes by Anita Loughrey

This is a fabulous new series for teenagers on a relatively common selection of medical conditions and disabilities. It is intelligent, with accurate information (where I or my co-readers had expertise enough to tell, which was enough to assume similarly for the rest) about the medical impacts, and positive honesty about the social impacts. Unlike some other series on these issues that I have come across, it is aimed just as much at the young person directly or indirectly affected by the condition in question and his or her friends and siblings, as at their young researcher doing a science project.

Many an underinformed adult could do with reading these clear and comprehensive non-othering volumes.

17. Brisingr by Christopher Paolini

Mostly as above, but I think Paolini could still work on his consciousness of his less major but important characters, and where they’re coming from as people. Too often they are ciphers, and motivation for others rather than the motivated themselves. (Plus one poor woman seems to have been heavily pregnant for two or more solid books, while another is visibly pregnant (to herself and her husband at least) within about a week. So maybe it’s the timings he needs to work on…)

18. Explaining Blindness by Lionel Bender

This covers a variety of visual impairments. I’ll have to find out have they made it – or even better the others – available in any more accessible formats (e.g. large print, Braille, or electronically).

19. The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

Hm, I assumed I’d reread this last year as well, but apparently not. It’s a comfortable but still intriguing go-back-to, and I think I was in the mood for that at the time (yes, it was weeks ago). It retains the capability to be very thought-provoking even after several readings, as much about the craft of the writing as about the chronologically mixed up lives of Henry and Clare. I thought about going through it sometime, in strict chronological order for either one of the pair, but Niffenegger has obviously put so care into how things are presented to us that I didn’t do that this time.

20. Explaining Down’s Syndrome by Angela Royston
21. Explaining Cystic Fibrosis by Jillian Powell
22. Explaining Deafness by Sarah Levete
23. Explaining Food Allergy by Carol Ballard

More good and useful books. I’m glad I read them all, but they’re easiest to describe as a series.

24. The Youngest Bride by Menucha Chana Levin

A well-written novel (slightly let down by the ending round-up for me, but not badly) set in the Jewish communities of 19th century Russian domains. The period is well explained, as are the emotions of the main character. It’s sweet, but in no way sickly.

25. Maggid Stories for Children: Holiday and Around the Year by Chaviva Krohn Pfeiffer

I started flicking through this, and stopped and read it from cover to cover. The stories are deftly retold from the author’s father’s anthologies for adults, and accompanied by lovely pictures. The layout and text font and size are well chosen for both reading to a young child or group of children, and for a newly confident reader to enjoy alone.

26. Chocolate Liqueur by Sarah Kisner

This was very obviously a magazine serial story, although the smoothing for the novel version has been well done. It isn’t bad, and actually didn’t fall exactly into what I anticipated being the fairytale ending from page 16. However I did wonder why that obvious possibility was never even considered. There are unaddressed class issues in this book. (The addressed ones are made much of, then skimmed over.)

27. A Redbird Christmas by Fannie Flagg

Another comfort reread (I couldn’t sleep at all a few nights ago) I’m surprised I didn’t return to last year. As well as not reading much at all so far this year (I was in the 80s, not the 20s, last March) I seem to be challenging myself less. I am reading more for my studies this year, but rarely a whole book through, so that stuff doesn’t show up here, of course…

Anyway, this isn’t a winter book for me, just a sweet one with lots of funny moments. It doesn’t shy away from giving characters very hard backgrounds, although we tend not to be told more of these than we need to understand the character.

28. Skulduggery Pleasant by Derek Landy

There’s definite influence from the Harry Potter novels here, but instead of the downfall of magical, and thus world society, being threatened in England and Scotland, this time it’s in and around Dublin. I didn’t find it all that culturally Dublin or Ireland, but spotting places was fun. (And I would point out that the Wax Museum and the Municipal Gallery are literally around the corner from each other, if not on the same block. Apparently the Wax Museum is about to move, and thus presumably won’t be as downtrodden as in this book, but that’s how it was in 2007 and for much of the previous decade or two.)

Anyway, this was an enjoyable romp, and made internal sense. Stephanie is a likeable, self-confident (but not arrogant) twelve year old with a definite mind of her own. I would read the sequel if it came my way, I think.

And apparently I’ve caught up! Which is good, but I really should read more…

Life energy

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

The books I’m finally getting around to discussing today don’t really have anything in common at all (the title’s the smallest stretch I could make for it), so here goes:

2. Essential Energy: Energy from Fossil Fuels by Robert Snedden

This is both informative and readable, as well as well laid out and comprehensive without diverting too far from the stated subject.

3. Amadans by Malachy Doyle

Doyle is an author I’ve heard of, but hadn’t read anything by, so when the title caught my eye in a charity shop I thought it would be worth the read. It’s a rather self-consciously modern fairy story (contact and transfer between the human and amadan worlds is via the internet), and I didn’t find it very subtle, but it’s fun.

4. The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson

I did listen to this from start to finish via Librivox, but still dithered about counting it yet, as I did so only to listen to it again on Craftlit. Heather has just started the novella over there, and said that for a change she’s going to assume we all know the end as she commentates throughout, so those of us who didn’t should listen now. Which I did, and it’s very interesting, although I didn’t find it quite as convincing or creepy as I had expected to. I’ll have to give you a better review in the spring when she finishes it.

5. My Life on Wheels by Shaindy Perl

I’m going to revert to my overused phrase “thought provoking” for this one. It’s a very open and honest account of living with severely disabling cerebral palsy by a very thoughtful and expressive young woman, as recounted by an experienced biographer. The book is not as upbeat as many of the Jewish ‘medical’ biographies currently out, although Breindy H. is not always negative either. What she is, is clear about the good things and people in her life (and she seems to have a gift for making good friends out of those who make the effort to get past her difficult speech), but also about the many difficulties that continue to face her. I would say this is definitely worth reading for those interested in CP issues, and for adults who want to be inspired, but it might be difficult for some adolescents to see past some of the more dramatic incidents in the book to the valuable lessons it contains.


Thursday, 27 November 2008

Now you see what happens when I get annoyed with myself for not doing stuff: I retreat and do even less! And then I feel worse.

I haven’t sorted out the camera issues, and my laptop’s power supply is out of action (and before anyone suggests getting a new one, it’s completely non-standard and basically hasn’t been made since I got the computer (brand new!)). I’m broke, haven’t been creative or studious or literary or active enough to prevent frustration and keep me happy, and I have to stop letting people (with me high on the list) down.

Should I tell you what I remember about the books? Perhaps achieving something will make me feel better. (I may have to stop suddenly, when the owner of the computer I’m on gets home.)

292. Why Eating Bogeys is Good For You by Mitchell Symons

Silly facts for those who enjoy being slightly disgusted. Where I had background knowledge, that presented seemed accurate.

293. A Dog Called Grk by Joshua Doder

This was quite good, really, and made me think of The Prisoner of Zenda and Graustark (especially since I’d just heard them shortly before), with the imaginary Eastern European country in political turmoil. I’m looking forward to finding the rest of the series sometime. Unfortunately, the more one learns of events around the world, the more one realises how much danger political and other upheaval can put children in. (Shades of The Garbage King here, although the genre is quite different. Grk is a great little dog!

294. Saffy’s Angel by Hilary McKay

The first in another well-established series it might be worth my while to continue with, although this leans more towards Scarlett in genre terms than Grk. Saffy grows up in an overly self-consciously eccentric artsy family, quite happy until she discovers her name isn’t on the paint chart with Cadmium, Indigo and Rose, then distancing herself once she learns the reason why. Her (rather self-imposed) isolation leads to her finally catching the eye of the girl down the road, who everyone’s been so careful not to stare at that they didn’t realise she wanted to make friends! Somewhat surprisingly (to me) this book ends up spanning several years, with some rather skimmed over for the sake of a realism that might not have been necessary.

295. A Rose Among Thorns by Rochel Schmidt

There’s a lot of good historical research behind this book, but there’s also a lot of reminding yourself that war stories, whether fact or fiction, tend to be the stories of survivors, because that’s how a story ends up being told. It’s gripping.

There are four more already (nearly at the 300 I set as my official goal for this year, if now unlikely to make the 366 I was hoping for), but I have to get off the computer. I’ll tidy up the links etc tomorrow.

Ridiculous Avoidance

Friday, 7 November 2008

Still no camera charger, so I can’t show you the handbag I’m making, or the matching corsage (both from Erika Knight’s Essential Crochet, seeing as my flatmate gave me the book and the yarn – both deep purple! – at the same time. to put on my coat when I go out with it. I’m really quite happy with both, although there is some finishing up to do. I’ve bought lining material for the bag, and a friend has offered to sew it all up, so I basically need to decide what to do about a handle for it, and attach a safety pin to the corsage. I did the large size of the pattern for the latter, with a chunky wook (instead of crochet cotton!) so it will perhaps make more of a statement than I meant it to, but I think the pair of items are going to use the two skeins I was given quite well.

There are no visiting teddies here just at the moment, which gives me a few days to sort out charging the camera…

In the meantime, I have been reading a decent amount, although I’m still a couple of weeks behind the book-per-day aim.

276. Foul Play by Tom Palmer

Football fan and wannabe detective who doesn’t mind skipping school for a good clue to the current mystery, Danny is basically a good kid who squabbles with his older sister but gets on well with his father. He gets a bit too personally involved with the strange events happening at the local football stadium one night, however…

This book is absolutely calculated to appeal to reluctant boy readers, but it’s not bad for all that!

277. Akiva by Rabbi Meir Marcus Lehmann

I said a bit about this book last week, in comparing it to And Rachel Was His Wife. I think the main thing I’d add is that the latter is character driven, while this has imparting information and a point of view as its objective. It’s very good for all that.

278. Artist Trading Cards by Leonie Pujol

Maybe when I finish the Masters I could take up ATCs…

279. Graphic Biographies: Martin Luther King Jr by Gary Jeffrey & Chris Forsey

Any other day [than Wednesday – the rest of this post has taken me awhile] I’d ignore the current Politics (with a big ‘P’ – I don’t think one ever can fully ignore small ‘p’ politics), and focus on the ones discussed in this and the following few books, but I think every (American, but not only) politician who mentions dreams in a speech knows their listeners will think of Martin Luther King Jr (and the ‘American Dream’ too), and I am pretty sure Barack Obama wouldn’t mind that today.

280. Graphic Biographies: Harriet Tubman by Rob Shone & Anita Ganeri

It’s rather longer since Harriet Tubman escaped slavery, and helped others both in the journey and the life after slavery. America has had a long struggle towards full equality of all its communities, as has every country out there. I’d be interested to know of some that have really got there, even if only in law. While the explicit (and legal) inequalities Tubman (and King, and Mandela) fought against are now much diminished and more subtle, in many ways that makes them harder to fix.

281. Graphic Biographies: Nelson Mandela by Rob Shone & Neil Reed

So, after all the politics, the series of books is a good one! The graphic story is well told and drawn, and each book has a couple of standard non-fiction style pages before and after it, to give context. I haven’t read the ones on entertainers, many of whose stories, like Mandela’s, have not come to an end yet.

282. Who Was Mary Seacole? by Paul Harrison

Seacole was a visionary front line nurse. More front-line than Florence Nightingale, and well known in her day.

Still wading through all the books to be discussed in this post by Friday, and today’s Sheldon tickled me. (Although it’s now got me thinking that I have no good excuse for not having finished the Braille Primer yet…)

283. Natural Disasters: Forest Fires by Laura Purdie Salas
284. Blazing Bush and Forest Fires by Louise and Richard Spilsbury

Yes, these two are on the same topic. Both are good, and I can’t decide which one to recommend over the other. The first tends to briefly tell the story of a particular memorable fire in history, and from there give facts, whereas the second gives information and then shows example pictures and tales, so it really depends which approach suits your purpose, taste or child.

285. You Wouldn’t Want To Be A Victorian Miner! by John Malam

Quite true, you wouldn’t, especially as a child! This is a most informative, well done series. It’s also reminded me of a film I saw (on television) as a child, but that I can’t find on IMDB. It was about a small mining village in England (or possibly Wales) where the mine was to be modernised, or closed, or something, and the pit ponies were to be killed rather than bringing them back above ground, I think. The local children get very upset about this, and after their protests get them nowhere they go through one of the old unused mine shafts (?) and kidnap the ponies. Being a children’s film it all ends happily, of course, with the ponies allowed a field to retire into. I can’t remember the title or other details, so if anyone has any ideas, I’d appreciate it.

286. I Wonder Why Volcanoes Blow Their Tops and other questions about natural disasters by Rosie Greenwood

The focus here (which surprised me) is not volcanoes, but natural disasters, but all are interestingly described, with bright clear pictures.

287. Waiting for Anya by Michael Morpurgo

My plan is to gradually read my way through Morpurgo’s canon, because he presents big historical (and other) issues in affecting and enthralling stories that children and adults like. This one is set in a French village on the Spanish border during WWII. The adult men went to fight and many are now prisoners of war, including Jo’s father, so the women, children and older or disabled men are getting on with looking after each other and the sheep without them. Apart from this absence the war has stayed away from the village for three years, until a unit of German soldiers is billeted upon them to guard the border, and Jo discovers there are more impacts than he realised.

288. Scarlett by Cathy Cassidy

So, Scarlett is a very troubled twelve-year old who has just been kicked out of her fifth school since her parents split up three years previously. People do seem to recognise that counselling might help, or have helped, but since they only ever threaten her with it (rather than offering it to her) that isn’t going to happen. After cycling through living with her mother, her grandmother, her uncle and her mother again, this city girl’s latest ‘last chance’ is to be sent to her father, his new wife and stepdaughter in a cottage in rural Ireland, and she doesn’t want to go.

289. My Special Brother by Rena Schiff

Far better than I thought it would be (I have to admit to letting the garish cover put me off over the years), this is the slightly fictionalised story of a 1960s Orthodox Jewish family in New York who buck the expectation that disabled babies will be left at the hospital to go straight into care, and bring their youngest son (who has Downs) home to be a beloved member of the family. Thankfully most of these explicit expectations have now been overcome, and there is ever more provision and support for children and adults with disabilities to receive extensive education and live as productive respected members of the community [although there is a lot more for us all to do] but this family worked their way through the prejudices and ignorance, and then allowed their story to be told to explain things to the rest of us. I’m making it sound very worthy – really it’s a good story too.

290. Just Between Friends by Sara Wiederblank

A definite relationships novel, this has four friends in their mid twenties dealing with how their expectations have either not been met, or have been met but still don’t entirely satisfy. One of those frustrating (but often frustratingly real) tales where the reader wants to just make the characters sit down and talk to their spouses or other loved ones!

291. Ug: Boy Genius of the Stone Age by Raymond Briggs

Fungus the Bogeyman remains my favourite Briggs protagonist, but this is amusing. I don’t think I’d recommend it to anyone who didn’t know a bit about the Stone Age already, as most of the story revolves around the anachronisms within our understanding of it.

Bruno and Books

Sunday, 14 September 2008

Another hectic week of not blogging, but there have been lots of books. My flatmate got her thesis in, and the Crochet Liberation Front First Ever Book is out, as of Friday! I haven’t had my copy yet, but it should be here soon, and I’m really looking forward to it. I’m a published designer!!!! (If you’re a Ravelry member you can get it at a well discounted price by heading over to the CLF group and looking in the stickied thread.)

Bruno, our visiting travelling teddy, has been providing moral support during the week, helping to welcome our guests over Shabbos, and then coming shopping today. He helped me choose some buttons for the Cafetiere Cosy I finished nearly a week ago,
Bruno and buttons
and encouraged me to finish his belt,
Bruno croppedDSCF0500
once we got home. On the way he took advantage of the sunny weather to climb a tree.
Bruno in tree
cosy cafetiere

I’ve also read a good few books (mostly for children) in the last few days.
248. The Adventures of Robin Hood by Marcia Williams

I really liked Robin Hood stories when I was a child, and this has most of the classic stories of how the known Merry Men joined the outlaws (although interestingly Will Scarlet is in there, but his joining isn’t). The illustrations are fun, too. (The book is in comic strip/graphic novel format.)

249. Heartbeat by Sharon Creech

This one isn’t a standard novel either, as the whole tale is told in first person poems by adolescent Annie, who runs and draws her way through life, trying to make sense of her mother’s pregnancy, her friend and running partner Max’ moods, and her grandfather’s dementia. Annie is basically a happy well-adjusted child who wants to do what she enjoys simply for the enjoyment, rather than being pushed to compete and conform.

250. Arctic Hero: The Incredible Life of Matthew Henson by Catherine Johnson

I hadn’t heard of Matthew Henson before, but he seems a very interesting and inspiring character. He was an African-American Arctic explorer, and possibly the first to get to the North Pole (although it is now considered that the means of ascertaining one’s arrival there in 1909 cannot be trusted – still he according to this book he got as close as was then possible). At the same time, as a Black man in the USA back then his achievements went unacknowledged. This is a short easy biography, but now that I think of it, we may have a longer one in the library. I’ll have to take a look.

251. Kiss of Death by Malcolm Rose

Horror has never been a particularly favoured genre of mine, and though the continuity here mostly works, and it’s a well written tale, with some great and well-researched settings, I don’t think this will be changing my mind. It’s told from the point of view of Seth, whose class in school go on two school trips in close succession, at both of which his twin sister Kim and their friend Wes find and take artifacts they should never have removed. All three end up getting physically ill, to greater and lesser extents, and only Seth can put things right…

252. The Atomic Bombings of Hiroshima & Nagasaki by the US Army Corps of Engineers, Manhattan District

This was recorded for the sixtieth anniversary of the events described, and it’s well worth listening to if you are interested in World War II, nuclear bombs, ‘Total War’, or the events more specifically. The earlier chapters can seem a bit dry in relation to such an event (although they are most informative), but the last two chapters counteract that tendency, as they are the personal account by a Catholic priest who lived in Nagasaki at the time of the bombing, describing that day and the ones following, with all the personal tragedy and infrastructural catastrophe involved.

And now, seeing as it’s taken me hours to complete this entry, I can show you that I’ve finally got around to stuffing Syd Rabbit, and doing up his body. I’d like to finish him this week (finishing two WIPs today has put me in that mood), and if that doesn’t look likely I might just decide he’s a pear (adding a stalk at the top) and have done!
Syd Rabbit pear

Future Travels

Monday, 21 July 2008

Luna the Moon Bear (teddy)
So I told you I’ve signed up for Travelling Teddy number 2, where one teddy is visiting 15 of us around the world. That teddy is already at his first host, and I’m looking forward to greeting him in a few weeks.

I’ve also now signed up for round 7, which is a group round, where ten of us around Europe are due to each send our teddy representative around the group and around the continent. I’m thinking Luna, here, will be the one to go. I’m about halfway through making her rucksack (how does one travel without a rucksack?); I’ve made the back itself, but still have the button and straps to fit and make.

The actual travelling this round may not begin until September, because of participants being abroad themselves in August. There are still spaces in the round, so go sign up!
Luna the Moon bear (teddy) and her crocheted bag
I hadn’t thought of the fact that an ecru bag won’t photograph well against a black bear, which is why you’re getting two photos. Unfortunately I don’t get the opportunity to take my pics in natural daylight all that often, which would help.

So far Luna’s not due to go to Scotland, so far as I know (although she’d love to) but I should go again someday, and in the meantime I’m reading up.

213. Step-Up Geography: Scotland by Alan Rodgers and Angella Streluk

This covers the physical geography of the country, both internally and in relation to the rest of the British Isles, and then the social and political impact that physical state had and has, as well as the modern impact of history.

214. Step-Up History: Famous Scots by Rhona Dick

The book isn’t bad, but I don’t like it so much as the rest of the series. Many of the featured Scots seem rather arbitrarily chosen, and I either wanted more information or rather less on each. That’s just my opinion, of course.

215. Step-Up History: Robert Bruce by Rhona Dick

I’m a novel reader at heart, and must admit that the thing that struck the greatest chord for me in this book was the context and explanation of the Declaration of Arbroath, as quoted by Jamie Fraser in A Breath of Snow and Ashes by Diana Gabaldon. I did once upon a time mention Bruce in a project I did for school, but only in the context of a family story, and had to be corrected (before the project was in) as to his first name being Robert. Having this book then might have spared me some blushes! Better late than never, I suppose…


Thursday, 17 July 2008

I was out late last night, and didn’t put the computer on once I did get home, so no post and not much crocheting. (I have finished Syd Rabbit’s tummy, but not attached it yet.)

The books I have to discuss have no unifying theme at all, that I can think of. Any suggestions?

206. Great Lives: Mao Zedong by Fiona MacDonald

This is the point where I wonder at the series being entitled “Great Lives”, when the book ends up being pretty negative about Mao as a person and national leader. I suppose they really meant “Influential Lives” or some such. (I’ve only actually so far read this and the Gandhi one I mentioned a couple of days ago, although I know there’s one on Saladdin, among several others. It’ll be interesting to see what judgement is made on him.)

Anyway, Mao is certainly portrayed as influential in his middle and later career, but also egotistical, domineering and murderous. It’s got pictures, quotes, context and dates, and is an interesting read. I have recently read one or two books about modern Chinese life (although not politics/leadership specifically) but nothing really about the country’s history since Wild Swans, well over a decade ago. Another major topic to explore further!

207. The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith

A great fun novel, with thoughtful characters who have interesting and amusing adventures, without shying away from the darker side of life, even in a country apparently as wonderful as Botswana. I have heard episodes of the radio dramatisation of the series before, but I enjoyed the book more, and look forward to getting to the rest of the series.

208. Reaching the Stars by Ruchoma Shain

Shain writes as well about her own life as about her father’s, although this is a quite different book from All For the Boss. This is much more of an anthology of her memories and those of her many students in different contexts and continents, and of very different ages, as well as tips and thoughts on being an educator and guide to life, as well as the timetabled class. I enjoyed it, but would be far more likely to return to her first book than this one.