Showing posts with label WORTHY!. Show all posts
Showing posts with label WORTHY!. Show all posts

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Courtney Crumrin Volume 1 The Night Things by Ted Naifeh


Rating: WORTHY!

As promised a few days back, I did pick up volume one and read it and loved it. I think I liked this more than the volume 3 I read previously, so now volume 2 is on the way!

This volume brings Courtney to her great uncle Aloysius's house...or is it her father's great uncle? Or his father's great uncle? Courtney gets bullied by the spoiled rich kids at school, but when she discovers her uncle has some interesting spell and charm books in his secret collection, she manages to co-opt help from a forest sprite, get herself glamoured to become the most popular person in school (big mistake), and lose the baby she was babysitting in a unilateral exchange with the fairies. But she cdecides she likes it here and wants to stay.

I enjoyed this book - the steady pace, the interesting situations, the steadfast fearlessness of Courtney and the endearing artwork. I commend it as a worthy read.


Jet Girl by Caroline Johnson with Hof Williams


Rating: WORTHY!

Having recently had an idea for a novel involving a female fighter pilot (and no, it's never going to be the one you think it will be - not from me anyway!), I saw this on Net Galley inviting review requests, and I jumped at the chance to read a first-hand account. Subtitled "My Life in War, Peace, and the Cockpit of the Navy's Most Lethal Aircraft, the F/A-18 Super Hornet," this book was a fascinating story of the life of a Navy Lieutenant from induction to flying combat missions over Iraq, and it was everything I hoped it would be. I'm very grateful to the publisher for my chance to read and review this advance review copy. Or maybe I should say 'ARC' since we're into military jargon territory now, which as the author makes clear, is almost a foreign language!

This book was perfect for me because I've read several books written by military personnel, including a Navy SEAL and others, but always written by men, and I really wanted a female take on it because I knew this would be more informative than the gung-ho macho perspective too many male writers adopt. That does not mean, by any means, that there was no machismo or gung-ho spirit here. Caroline Johnson - callsign 'Dutch' - was a navy fighter pilot after all - planning and executing more than 700 flight missions, but all of that was tempered by a hell of a lot of other perspectives and it made the reading so much more rounded, with depth and sharp insight. I read it in two days which is not quite a record for me, but it is a sterling effort these days for a book that exceeds 280 pages of tightly packed print! I usually prefer my books shorter, but this one seemed short because it was to the point, with short chapters and an easy-reading style.

Talking of which, I often rail at books which waste paper by having wide margins and widely-spaced text. I've never had to rail the other way, but I came close this time because the book was really tightly-packed! It reminded me of my own tree-saving formatting, although mine isn't as tight as this one. I could not get it to look how I wanted it in Adobe Digital Editions, which I've been using lately because Bluefire Reader - my usual go-to reader, had been giving me grief with a lot of the illustrated books I've been reading recently, but this time, I went back to BFR, which gave me control over the font, and so I finally got it into a format that was easy on the eye and ran with it.

When I first began reading this (it has a prologue and and epilogue, both of which I skipped as I do routinely in any book) and followed the author through her military schooling, I confess I started to wonder where the harassment was. I've read much about harassment and hazing of female conscripts, and there seemed to be none here, which made me wonder if something was being left out, but it seems it was not, because this kind of thing, it would appear, did not happen in college, but was reserved for when you would least expect it: when Lt Johnson was assigned to her first combat role with the VFA-213 Blacklions which flew deadly Hornets off aircraft carrier CVN-77 USS George HW Bush, the tenth and final Nimitz-class carrier to be commissioned into the USN, and named after the USA's 41st president who was a naval aviator in World War Two.

Lt Johnson got her first taste of this shameful conduct when she arrived on base and went to a meet-and-greet kind of a get-together, and was assumed, by the Navy wives there, to be the wife of a male aviator. When she revealed that she was herself the new pilot and was single, she was shunned by these other women which was a disgraceful way to treat anyone in national service in good standing - typically first in her class. Later in the book, Lt Johnson tries to excuse these women for their conduct, and that's her choice, but to me their behavior, particularly against another woman, was inexcusable, even if it's understandable from their shaky perspective.

This isn't the only issue she had as a female pilot in a "man's world" and she lists many, many others, but she rose through them all and she did her job in outstanding fashion. In doing her sworn duty she got some kind of release from that when flying missions - combat or practice or something in between. Even though missions were stressful in themselves, they were fun, until after many years and long deployments they were not so much fun, especially when these pilots wanted to do something about the atrocities they could see ISIS committing on the ground and could not engage because the order had not yet come down from the commander-in-chief to go weapons hot.

The stress doesn't let up even when a pilot isn't even flying, because you never know when you will hear of a Navy plane crash as this author did on more than one occasion, and cannot help but wonder if it's someone they knew from college, from training, from flying, who died. In those circumstances, the Navy requires all personal phones to be on lockdown so no one can even call to tell their own family they're ok, not until the family of the deceased has been personally told by a Navy representative.

The actual combat and near-combat missions are not the most interesting thing in this book, interesting as they are. What I enjoyed most was learning of the day-to-day routine, the cramped conditions (it's not just on submarines where people live on top of one another!), the limited access to things we take for granted, the sometimes long days, down to the the numbed butt from sitting in a hard seat for several hours (the seats are hard so that there is no movement of legs in the event of an emergency eject, which takes place so fast that it could break a thigh-bone, were there any give in the seat).

One of the things you'd be unlikely to find in this book had it been written by a guy, was the issue of going to the bathroom while flying! Astronauts have this taken care of, but not so much the pilots. There are special devices designed for women, believe it or not, but the old version doesn't work well and the Navy wouldn't spring for the new version because it was more expensive (these devices are in the range of thousands of dollars, and unlike Red Wing flying boots, it's not something a pilot can just go out and buy on their own dime). One chapter described an amusing, although inexcusable, situation for a pilot to be put in when they've been on a mission for too long, and despite avoiding drinking too much fluid beforehand, they find themselves absolutely having to go.

So this book had it all - the highs and the lows, and the details I'd been most interested in learning about, and it was a fascinating read on almost every page for me. There were almost no issues I had with it, but I'll mention two which I think worth mentioning. The first is the claim made in the opening paragraph of chapter seven that "The United States is the only country in the world to dare to take off and land on aircraft carriers at night...." This is simply untrue. Even as I write this, British pilots are doing this very thing on their new aircraft carrier, the Queen Elizabeth, and this isn't the first time they've ever done this! Nor are they the only other navy which does this. When you think about it, it makes no sense. Why would a navy restrict itself like that and give potentially hostile nations the knowledge that they can get up to something as darkness falls knowing that the nearest aircraft carrier can do nothing about until the sun comes up because they don't fly at night? Nonsense!

The other issue was that there are no pictures in the book. I didn't expect anything that's potentially compromising, or group shots of happy pilots and graduates, but it would have been nice if there had been pictures of the aircraft and the aircraft carrier!) mentioned in the text. There were many airplanes mentioned, and while I have seen some up close and personal, I've enver seen a Hornet. Each of these planes I had to look up to get an idea of what craft was being discussed, which wasn't a huge hardship, but it was a nuisance. Military terminology and acronyms were explained, but we were not even treated to a description of the aircraft, let alone an image.

I feel that would have been an improvement, but even without that, I consider this book to be essential for anyone who is seriously interested in the military. I commend it as a worthy and satisfying read, and I thank Lt Johnson for her service and for being so candid about it in this book.


The Rocking Book of Rocks by Florence Bullough, Amy Ball, Anna Alanko


Rating: WORTHY!

This is from an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

Bullough and Ball have proven themselves to be a formidable writing team in this stunningly-illustrated (by Alanko) book on geology, with a great title aimed at young readers. It's in glorious color and skips nothing in its story of how the superficially mundane, but underneath fascinating, rocks that we live on and around, came to be.

It's a hugely long story in the making, going back well over four billion years, but the authors have shrunk it down to easily digestible chunks, starting with what are rocks and minerals, and going through the formation of the Earth and a geological timeline (here there be dragons - aka dinosaurs!). There's an overview of the main three types of rock, and the book then goes into a bit more detail about igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic rock, how they're formed, and the interesting sub-types of rock formations that can be found within each, including fossils and precious stones.

The book not only talks about the rocks, crystals, and gems, but about how they came to be, and where they're found, and each double-page spread (there are about fifty of them - 100 or so pages in all) has gorgeous, detailed artwork. I learned things myself from this book that I hadn't known, and this is after I'd already put out my own modest book about crystals in my "The Little Rattuses" series, so it's not just the young 'uns who can learn from this. I enjoyed it and commend it fully as a fun, interesting, and educational book, and a tour de force of illustration.


Whizzy Wheels Academy: Dylan the Dump Truck by Peter Bently, Sébastien Chebret


Rating: WORTHY!

This is from an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

I have a nephew named Dylan so maybe I'm biased, but it is my considered opinion that this book was far too cute not to like. I liked the scatterbrained Dylan. I can imagine Yoda remonstrating with Dylan as he did with Luke, "...never his mind on where he was, on what he was doing."

Dylan is constantly distracted and not paying attention. He hears 'race' instead of 'pace' and goes racing off. He's focused on a cat on a tree instead of keeping still so he can be loaded with sand, and ends up dumping the sand in the wrong place. But Dylan finally pulls it together and makes a major save, at last realizing that safety is the watchword on a building site.

I commend this book for a fun story by Bently and some colorful and attractive artwork by Chebret. It's entertaining, cute, and educational for that fidgety kid you might know!


Hope by Corrinne Averiss, Sébastien Pelon


Rating: WORTHY!

This is from an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

Hope is a gently-written (by Averiss) and beautifully, artfully illustrated (by Pelon) set out in about 20 double-page spreads depicting a young boy named Finn, and his large and very hairy dog named Comet. The two are very close and do everything together, so when the dog gets sick, Finn worries understandably, yet so much that it consumes him. His dad - almost as hairy as the dog(!) - comes into Finn's room one night with a torch (flashlight) and some advice, it resonates with Finn and turns his perspective around a little bit, so he learns to hope for the best and hang in there.

I really liked this story; it had a steady pace and an easy meter, and I loved the artwork which was exquisitely rendered. I commend it for any young reader, especially ones who might find themselves in Finn's position vis-à-vis a dog or any pet. I recently went through the loss of two pets - and these were not dogs but rats. I never thought I'd ever get attached to a pet rat, but these two were the inspiration for a series of children's books I started writing, and I bonded with them far too deeply, which left me devastated when they died, one of them last December right before Christmas, and the other five months later.

This book has a much happier ending than that, but I can also still recall how I felt when the first family dog we had when I was a child grew old and into a condition where she had to be put down, and it devastated me too. I've never forgotten how much that affected me back then, and if a book like this helps young children cope with such feelings, no matter whether the outcome is good, as it is here, or the worst, then it's well-worth investing in. I commend this as a worthy read for the message it carries and for the art is displays.


Saturday, July 13, 2019

My First Fact File The Vikings by Philip Steele, Stef Murphy


Rating: WORTHY!

This is from an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

Written nicely by Philip Steele with consultation from Ragnhild Ljosland, and illustrated gloriously by Stef Murphy, this book does for the Vikings what the book on Rome in this series ('My First Fact File') did for the Romans.

It starts off with who the Vikings were, what kind of society they lived in, the Viking longship, sailing (read: lots of rowing!), trading, raiding and settling, the warriors and their armor, clothes, farming, living accommodations, feasting, how children lived, arts and crafts, and customs, festivals, and religious beliefs.

Once again in the series, there are small inexpensive projects for children to get their hands on, such as building your own full-size Viking longship - no, I'm kidding, although wouldn't that be awesome? No, the projects are much more modest than that, but nonetheless fun for youngsters to try their hands at. They include cracking a Viking rune code, designing a longship prow ornament (on a small scale!), making a wind vane, and making your own Viking money!

I enjoyed every one of the books in this series that I've read so far, and each had its own way of bringing out the facts without being dry or boring. They're a great way to learn about nature, or in the case of this one, about the history of some remarkable people from a dim and distant past, and I commend this fully as a worthy read.


My First Fact File Ancient Rome by Simon Holland, Adam Hill


Rating: WORTHY!

This is from an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

This continues my four book review in the 'My First Fact File' series today. This is about ancient Rome. Now I've read a book about Rome by a man named Holland, I do expect to see a future book about those Nederlanders written by someone named Rome! Just kidding. I've actually visited Rome, so I have a real appreciation for the history, although of course modern Rome is worlds away from what it was at the height of the Roman empire back in the early second century.

This book will quite effectively take you back there, though. Written with some knowlegeable detail by Simon Holland with consultation from Matthew Nicholls, and finely-illustrated by Adam Hill (who gets to draw hills! The seven hills of Rome! This is poetry in motion, I tell you) this book covers everything a young mind needs to know, from the founding of Rome, the mythology and the actual - to the growth of the Republic, the empire, the Roman soldiers, their weapons, armor, battle tactics and conquest, through everyday life, including homes, engineering, cities, arts, society, childhood, how Rome kept itself fed, to entertainment and religious belief. In short, everything you need to know to get a solid grounding in ancient Rome.

There are, as usual in this series, small, inexpensive and easy projects for children to undertake to get a hands-on feel for some of the aspects of life discussed, including making a shield and a catapult, to designing a city, a home, and thinking about what policies you would implement were you the emperor of your own home! If this doesn't stir your child's mind I do not know what will. I commend it as a worthy and educational read.


My First Fact File Oceans by Jen Green, Wesley Robins


Rating: WORTHY!

This is from an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher. You know it's an ARC when you espy a note on page 22 urging Kate to add a leader line! I assume all that will be done by the time the published edition emerges!

Again by the tireless Jen Green, with consultant Diva Amon, and this time nicely illustrated by Wesley Robins, this book tackles the massive oceans that Earth is blessed with - a subject which was touched on in her excellent My First Fact File Weather book I also review today. Again this is a print book, but I got only to review the ebook representation of it.

This book is the same length as the other one - some forty pages, with each pair of pages in a double spread, each spread devoted to an important aspect of a very important subject. It covers an overview of the five great oceans (and no, Ocean's 8 wasn't one of them), winds and waves, currents and tides, the ocean floor on which, (I read on the BBC news website in the middle of last May), a plastic bag was found at the bottom of the Marianas trench - some 35,000 feet down. Yes, we've even polluted that. The ocean floor is constantly on the move, believe it or not, as this book makes clear. Whether that will get rid of that bag, I don't know!

But I digress! the book covers the various levels in the ocean from sunlight surface to dark depths, as well as the littoral (literally!), food chains (not fast food!), coral reefs, icy ocean environments (which would sure feel nice as hot as it's been here recently!), animal journeys (including salmon, whales, and the Arctic tern), dangerous waters, rising seas, ships and boats (a brief history), exploration, and pollution. I recently had the pleasure of an ocean cruise and gained a refreshed appreciation for the sea, which I hope will be reflected in a novel I'm currently working on, but this book, aimed at children though it is, brought all of that back to me.

Once again the book has some pretty neat experiments for young children to undertake - safe and inexpensive. There's a sink or swim project to compare fresh and saline water, there's an experiment where you can make your own current, and even one where you can make your own tsunami! Just a small one. Probably won't bring your house down. I'm guessing...! There's a couple of pages devoted to rising sea levels due to climate change - and including a nice little experiment to see how your mini-sea level rises when ice melts.

For me, it would have been nice has this clarified that floating ice - like at the North Pole - will not contribute to sea level rise because it's already in the ocean, but melting ice on land - such as that on Greenland and the Antarctic will indeed cause a major sea-level rise if it all melts. But you can't have everything. Of course not! Where would you keep it?!

Overall I really liked this book and commend it as a worthy read. I appreciated that it tells the truth, and illustrates the text well, and colorfully. It's done in ways that will engage young children and educate them, and we all need an education about the oceans, it seems.


My First Fact File Weather by Jen Green, Tom Woolley


Rating: WORTHY!

This is from an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

This, one of four 'My First Fact File' books I'm reviewing, is aimed at younger children. It's written as a print book (the content page has no clickable links to other pages in the ebook), and it was finely illustrated by Tom Woolley and written by Jen Green with some consultation with Adam Scaife.

It's over forty pages long and each pair of pages is a double spread. It starts where everything starts - the Sun, (without which we - and even the planet itself - wouldn't exist!) and proceeds through the atmosphere, just like a sunbeam, explaining in some detail along the way how all of this interacts with oceans and winds to create a climate.

I really appreciated that it does not pull punches when it comes to talking about the indisputable fact that the climate is changing and this change has been caused by human activity. There are no cowardly and irresponsible presidential lies here. The book continues with all aspects of climate and weather, and covers biomes, the seasons, the water cycle, clouds, rain, snow, sleet, and hail, thunder and lightning, hurricanes and tornadoes, droughts, and floods. It's really excellent.

There are some practical experiments children can undertake as well, which makes the book fun, including testing air pressure, comparing wind speeds, demonstrating how seasons work, and making your own water cycle. These are simple, inexpensive things young children can safely, do and they looked like entertaining educational opportunities to me!

I commend this book as a worthy and educational read.


My Kindergarten in 100 Words by Sophie Beer


Rating: WORTHY!

This is from an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

Yes, there are indeed 100 words, spread over ten pages with fine illustrations to identify what each word is. This was an ARC and the first few images were in color, the rest black and white line drawings, so I don't know if the finished product (I'm not the kidn of reviewer who ever gets the finished product!) will be like this or completely in color. Nevertheless the drawings alone are nice and will draw the eye of kids who look at this, and each is labeled.

I ought to note that while Sophie Beer is the illustrator, I am not sure who the author is. Maybe it's all Sophie Beer's work or maybe the author is anonymous. There's no copyright page and I'm not a beer drinker myself (joke!) so it's not clear who exactly wrote this.

Anyway, the book takes us through the day, from getting out of bed, through morning ablutions and enjoying breakfast, to walking to the nursery, the day at the nursery and five pages of things you might see there, to being picked up for the trip back home. The book is short, simple, and sweet, and I can see this being a really useful tool for preparing a child to go to nursery for that first time, and even getting them excited about it and looking forward to their first day. I commend this as a worthy read.


Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Diary of a Tokyo Teen by Christine Mari Inzer


Rating: WORTHY!

This was a short and fun graphic novel written by a seventeen year old who was born in Japan to a local woman and a US citizen father, so she has two passports. She migrated at a young age to the US, and this is a sweet and fun graphic documentary of her return trip a decade or so later.

It's quite idiosyncratic, obviously; she remarks upon and records the things which intrigue and amuse her, but much of it has a wider appeal than that. The author and I couldn't be more different than chalk and cheese in things like age and gender, but we do have the ex-pat thing in common, so I could see through her eyes quite well, and she expresses herself with smarts, erudition, and a nice eye for oddity and absurdity.

The book is also educational. Because she was absent from Japan for so long and having left at such an early age, although a lot of what she saw on her return had a familiarity to it, there was also a lot that was - or at least seemed - new, so we get to look at Japan very much through a visitor's eye, but this eye is softened by her familiarity with the culture. There is also culture shock with regard to how clean and neat everything is, how proud and polite the people are who serve in both fast food places and restaurants, and how curious the toilets are - among many other things!

I've never been to Japan, but I certainly would like to visit. Reading books like this help me feel a little bit like I've already visited. I commend this one as a worthy read.


Bonk by Mary Roach


Rating: WORTHY!

I get through a number of audiobooks and I'm less picky about those than print or ebooks because I have this captive time while commuting so I may as well get experimental to avoid getting completely mental, so I go out on more of a limb with audiobooks. Not anything crazy. I mean I don't try sitting on the case while driving, or hanging CDs from my mirror to catch the sunlight, but I tend to listen to a wider variety of material than I read, and I read a pretty wide variety as it is. Anyway that's my excuse for this one, which turned out to be highly entertaining with a few LOLs and belly laughs along the way.

Mary Roach has an interesting take on life, her humor dry, sly, and wry, and she puts it to full use here in this survey of studies on human sexuality with some animal variants tossed in for good measure. This is an historical survey, so it goes way back - before even Kinsey Masters Johnson, so it covers some ground and gives an interesting perspective on how white men studied female sexuality back then and the bizarre ideas they had about it. Unfortunately we're still suffering from that kind of bias even in much more recent studies of many aspects of human health and bodily function - not just sexuality which routinely exclude women for no good reason and to the detriment of our understanding, particularly of when it comes to female health.

Anyway, without going into any details, I can commend this as an interesting, educational, and worthy read.


Bad Machinery Volume 5 The Case of the Fire Inside by John Allison


Rating: WORTHY!

This was one of the last two of this series that I had not read yet, although by no means the last in chronological order. Not that that matters very much with this series, but this one was published as volume five, and was the last one I read, and it's odd to think this grew on me so quickly after I had initially not liked one of these volumes when I read it a few years back and so never pursued the series! Now I'm sorry it's over, but I do understand Allison's desire to move on and try something new. I'm just sorry I didn't like what he did next.

In this volume, the author explores Selkies - mythological seal-like creatures that inhabit the ocean, but after casting-off their sealskin cloak, appear as human - and very pretty young girls some of them are, too. Due to Lottie's discovery of one of these cloaks on the beach, and her stuffing it into one of the boys' bags, the Selkie latches onto this boy and pursues him ardently, including enrolling at his school, where she poses a threat to the established swimming champion in the school, who is also threatened by her boyfriend dating one of the girls without telling her he doesn't want to date her any more. But wait, his ex is good-looking, and a great swimmer? What's going on here? Meanwhile the Selkie's dad emerges from the ocean in search of his lost girls and is immediately assumed to be a homeless guy!

Once again I was highly amused by this and I am sorry to see the series come to an end. I commend this as a worthy read.


Bad Machinery Volume 2 The Case of the Good Boy by John Allison


Rating: WORTHY!

This is the second to last I've read in this series, but the second to be published chronologically. In the story, Mildred wants to win an enchanted pencil at the visiting carnival, so she can draw a dog - which the pencil will make real, and then she can have a pet. Meanwhile toddlers are disappearing, mostly from the baby care centre, and the police don't seem to be doing much about it ("Oh, they'll turn up!"). Meanwhile some sort of creature is lurking in the forest and a crazed animal hunter is called in to track it down.

So once again the boys and the girls are coming at a mystery from two direction and destined to collide, one way or another, in the middle. There's the usual off-kilter humor, and bizarre utterances from Lottie, my favorite character, and overall the story was hilarious and very much appreciated. I fully commend it as a worthy read.


Courtney Crumrin Volume 3 In the Twilight Kingdom by Ted Naifeh


Rating: WORTHY!

I didn't realize when I first picked this one up on spec from the library that it's volume three in an apparently disjointed series of seven. It was readable as a standalone though, if you don't mind missing the backstory - which really doesn't seem to have impacted my grasp of this volume. By the time I'd completed half of it and found it engaging, I decided I might go back and see if the library has any previous volumes, and I still feel that way despite the story slowing down rather in the second half and not really having an ending.

Courtney is a young witch with a less than accommodating attitude, and I liked her as a character. She's powerful and feared, but for all that she seems to be very restrained with her practicing her witchery. She tries to warn her teacher at this witch school not to conduct this experimental spell, but the teacher doesn't listen, and when they realize the spell won't wear-off this poor kid, as the teacher had thought it would, Courtney has to step-up and try to fix it. The teacher has to learn a second lesson though, before she realizes she ought to seriously listen to Courtney's advice.

My problem in the second half was that Cortney went into the goblin lands to try to fix this bad spell, yet there was nothing she did there which seemed to lead to a solution, and nearly all her time there was spent fixing a second gaff by her teacher. One wonders why Courtney isn't teaching this class.

The thing is that by the end of the story, the boy still wasn't 'fixed'. I didn't understand that, and it doesn't appear that this story is taken up on any later volume, so I have to declare a certain amount of dissatisfaction with that regardless of how much I had enjoyed this to begin with. It's with some mixed feelings that I still consider this particular volume a worthy read therefore. It was interesting and different, and the black and white line art was good, but I guess I'll have to read another one to decide how I feel about the series as a whole.


I survived the Joplin Tornado by Lauren Tarshis


Rating: WORTHY!

I don't know what made an old woman think she could write a novel about a little kid surviving a tornado but...I'M JOKING! Lauren Tarshis isn't old and even if she were it wouldn't matter. I don't subscribe to the 'write what you know' nonsense. The rule ought to be 'write what you can make a good story out of' (or maybe, in some cases, 'write what you can get away with', but let's not go there), and this author has almost made a career out of writing this "I survived" series. I say 'almost' because she's written other stuff and novel writing isn't all she does.

She started this series though, in 2010 with I Survived the Titanic (start big, right? Or write...), and has published a score or so of these. All these stories are based on real historical events, not all of them natural - or even human-caused - disasters, this particular one has its roots in the EF5 tornado which slammed Joplin, Missouri on Sunday, May 22, 2011. In addition to scores of deaths. It did almost three billion dollars in damage.

This was a mutant tornado, and as such was a good one to dramatize in this fiction based on the real disaster. I listened to the audiobook, and the main character is an eleven-year-old boy named Dex, whose father went to college with a guy who now makes a career out of chasing tornadoes and talking about them on his TV show, which is of course mandatory watching for Dex and his father. Why not his mother, I have no idea. Dex also has an older brother who is in the Navy Seals. I don't know why that was included because it's irrelevant to what happens in the story. His brother could have been a criminal or a younger brother, or a school teacher or anything. It made no difference to events.

Dex meets the tornado chaser by accident - literally, and gets invited to go chasing the next morning. They end up being caught in this monster tornado that precipitated rapidly and right outside Joplin. It was a cell of several tornadoes inside a shield of rain that was almost a mile across, and it hit Joplin right on, carving a path through there before heading off into the countryside and finally dissipating.

Dex's story is really very short, and the action in it is pretty violent at times, so you might want to exercise caution in who you let read this, but for most boys in middle grade it would probably be a worthy read. I don't know if girls would be likely to get into it in the same way, but maybe a few would. Certainly they ought to consider the educational value. It's read in fine style by Thérèse Plummer, and afterwards the author talks about the real tornado, how it formed, and the damage it did, so this makes for a really educational work. This isn't a series that I'm interested in pursuing, but maybe a child of appropriate age would, and I commend it as a worthy listen!


Sunday, July 7, 2019

My Very First Book of Colors by Eric Carle


Rating: WORTHY!

I think author Carle is being a bit arrogant in assuming this will be your child's very first book of colors, but maybe it will be! This was one of two young children's learning books that I thought was inventive and cute. They consist of solid, hard-wearing pages that are easily wiped clean, and which are split into top and bottom halves. In this one, the top contained a swatch of color (not a real swatch - a printed one, and it didn't tell time), the bottom contained pictures that largely matched the colors, but the top and bottom for each single page did not match, so it's a detective game which encourages a child to explore and find the matching color. The colors are not solid colors, and contain patterns within them, so even if your child is color-challenged it occurs to me that they may still be able to match one with the other, but that's merely a surmise. There are not that many pages, so it's not a huge challenge, but it's enough to get a young mind working, and I commend this as a worthy read.


My Very First Book of Shapes by Eric Carle


Rating: WORTHY!

I think author Carle is being way optimistic in assuming this will be your child's very first book of shapes, but maybe it will be! This was one of two young children's learning books that I thought was inventive and cute. This one consists of solid, hard-wearing pages that are easily wiped clean, and which are split into top and bottom halves. The top halves contain silhouette shapes; the bottom, pictures that match the shapes, but the top and bottom for each single page do not match, so it's a detective game which encourages a child to explore and find the matching shape. There are not that many pages, so it's not a huge challenge, but it's enough to get a young mind working, and I commend this as a worthy read.


Saturday, July 6, 2019

Bad Machinery Volume 7 The Case of the Forked Road by John Allison


Rating: WORTHY!

Here I go reviewing the last volume before I've read them all. The others are on the way. This one, surprisingly, was actually in a regular comic book format - but slightly smaller. This made for easy reading, but disguised the fact that it was considerably shorter than the others I've read. Whether this was just because it's the closing volume, or this one was written for the print version rather than as a web comic, I do not know.

The story was just about the girls, too - which is fine with me because they've been typically far more interesting than the boys who barely were featured in this story. And by that I mean they were in the story hardly at all - not that they were in the story without any clothes on.

So Charlotte Grote, Mildred Haversham, and Shauna Wickle are on the case - once they discover what the case is, and in this case it's the curious wormhole in a cabinet in the chemistry lab at school, which they go through back to 1960, only to return and discover that the present is screwed-up, so naturally they have to go back and fix it now. Or then. Whatevs.

You know they're still going to screw something up, right?

I loved this story. It might be my favorite, but I still have volumes two and five to go, so we'll see. Meanwhile this gets a worthy!


Desert Exile by Yoshiko Uchida


Rating: WORTHY!

This was a depressing read, but never was there a better time since this travesty took place than now to read this account of one woman's experiences in the concentration camps set up by the racist hypocrite Franklin "Detain them" Roosevelt to intern Japanese Americans after Pearl Harbor. Most of the well over 100,000 people imprisoned behind barbed wire were American citizens.

The constitution meant nothing to a clueless and panicked government back then. These people were incarcerated in shoddy, ill-finished - if even finished - barracks and everything they owned which they could not carry with them and which they could not entrust to reliable friends, was gone when they were finally set free two or three years later. They were released into destitution and had to start over from scratch; then this same government had the nerve to ask the young men they'd detained to show their loyalty by signing-up for the same military which had pointed machine guns at them for the previous few years.

Yoshiko Uchida was merely one of these, but that doesn't make her personal story less important. She, her sister, and her mom and dad were given ten days notice that they had to leave for a camp taking only what they could carry. The camp was a racetrack and they were 'housed' in the horse stables - a family of four in a large horse stall stinking of manure with no privacy and barely any facilities. Later they were moved to a specially-constructed - well half-constructed - camp in the middle of the Utah desert.

It was a couple of months before they got sheetrock installed inside their 'apartment' to keep the desert wind and the chalky desert sand out of their 'home'. It took equally long to get their stove installed - which until then had been a hole in the roof where the desert sand and chill got in. The list of abuses continues not only back then, but also today. Like I said it's a depressing but necessary read at a time when this government is doing the same thing to illegal immigrants - using euphemisms to describe the concentration camps. You don't make America great again by treating humans beings like cattle, and apparently that's a lesson we have a really hard time intern-alizing.

I commend this book as an important and worthy read.