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

Saturday, March 16, 2019

The Complete Food Substitutions Handbook by Jean B MacLeod


Rating: WORTHY!

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

If Jean B MacLeod who can stand against her?! I was interested in this book, but having looked at it, I confess that I'm wasn't sure how to review it. The problem isn't that there is anything wrong with it, it's that the book is quite literally what the title says. It is the complete book of food substitutions! It is an alphabetized list of a huge number of food items, many of which I have never heard of, with alternative items that you can replace them with in recipes, if you don't have the original or if you want to change it out for whatever reason. The book covers the globe with entries from literally every continent except Antarctica, which admittedly isn't known for its vegetable or meat products!

So without tasting a significant sampling of the recipes, all I can say is that the author has done some serious work here, and that from the substitutions I recognize, it looks like they will work just fine. That's not to say a substitution is always meant as an exact replacement. Sometimes the substitution is so close to the original that it's an obvious replacement and shouldn't really affect anything, but other times the replacement food is different or even quite different, so the aim is more to replace the texture or effect of adding this particular ingredient rather than replace the taste. The thing is that this book gives you choices so you can maybe find a cheaper ingredient, or one you're not allergic to, or one that fits your dietary requirements. The choice is yours! And that's the point! Most items have several options, so you can readily play with them to find something you will like.

Once again, I think the book was designed as a print book because there is very little use made of electronic linking. It's in alphabetized sections, so you can tap the letter in the contents and go to the start of that particular letter's entries, and you can tap from that same letter header for any section to return to the contents page, but one thing I noticed is that quite a number of items in the list will say something like BITTER ALMOND OIL See OIL OF BITTER ALMONDS, and there is no link to tap to go there. That would have been a nice feature.

Given that people sometimes put fake entries into lists like this so they can prove it if someone copied their list, I half wondered if, under 'FIG LEAVES' it might say, 'See LOIN CLOTHS', but it didn't! I was a little disappointed in that, but fig leaves are a legitimate food item here, so that would have meant missing an entry and thereby making the book rather less complete! So I understand, really I do! Maybe the author has an even more sneaky one hidden away somewhere else!

But overall, I liked this book, and I commend it as a complete food substitutions guide.


Saturday, March 9, 2019

The Missing Barbegazi by HS Norup


Rating: WORTHY!

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

Helle Sidelmann Norup is Danish by birth and it shows in this work which would have been handled differently by am American author (assuming one had even thought to write this). The story is original, to begin with and not derived from some long line of stories rooted in a tired old fairy-tale, like so many US middle-grade authors do, but more than that, it's realistic and inventive, playful and fun, and tells an engaging and interesting story.

It's fiction, of course, but it would be so easy to believe something like this could happen or even has happened. Not being American, the author felt no compulsion whatsoever to set this in the USA, which an unfortunately large number of US authors seem to think is the only place in the world where anything worth writing about can take place. With an attitude like that pervading our literature, it was no surprise to me at all that we finally elected a president who is xenophobic and seems to think there's nowhere else on this planet other than the USA that merits any attention at all. Believe me, this book is a breath of fresh air in middle-grade writing.

Barbegazi are beings from the folklore of the French and the Swiss. The odd name comes from the French barbe-glacée, which literally means 'frozen beard'. Tessa - the main character in this story - grew up hearing of the barbegazi from her grandfather, who has recently died. Her grandmother isn't taking it well. Tessa feels that if she can locate a barbegazi, and prove - at least to herself and her grandmother - that her discredited grandfather wasn't deranged, it will help her grandmother to recover.

Well, guess what? She does find one! She finds a whole family of them and the family has a problem. Tessa is only too happy to help them out, but the problem is: barbegazi don't trust humans! Tessa will need to learn and grow, and take on her shoulders some adult values and traits. And she's equal to it!

She knows a lot about the barbegazi from her grandfather, but when she needs to know more, she reads the notes her grandfather left. Oh my - a girl who is shown to be intelligent by her actions, not from the fact that a lazy author simply told us she reads books! What a pleasant novelty! This is how you write a story about a smart young girl! You don't say she reads books, you show her studying a book to find answers! This author gets it. Far too many authors I've read do not.

I liked this story from the start, and though I'm far from middle-grade, it maintained my interest throughout. It was original, realistic, thoughtful, and fun. Tessa was shown authentically: not perfect, not a genius, not a dope, not cowardly, not super-powered, not squeamish or squeal-ish - just an ordinary girl who has a few things to prove not for herself, but to help others. This author nailed it completely, and I'm happy to commend this as a worthy read and a fun novel. It's one of the best I've read this year so far, middle-grade or otherwise!


Friday, March 8, 2019

Doc's Mobile Clinic by Marcy Kelman


Rating: WORTHY!

Based on a TV show created by Chris Nee, and illustrated by the so-called 'Character Building Studio' which appears to make heavy use of computer-generated imagery, this book actually wasn't half bad as it happens. It's also from Disney (although the show was produced by Brown Bag Films, it was shown on the Disney Channel and Disney Junior). The book was even mildly amusing.

Doc McStuffins likes to take care of injured toys and now she has a mobile clinic which hooks on the back of her bike, she can travel to where the injured toys are and fix them up, which is exactly what she does. This book depicts a kid of kolor who is actively pursuing her own goals and not afraid to wield the tools she needs to do it (and that's not a metaphor!). She's a self-starter and definitely not a princess, and she deserves some recognition as a much better and more realistic character than some of the whitewashed and flimsy female abuse that Disney has served up over the years and doesn't seem like it's going to give up on any time soon!

Perhaps this character only grew to be what she is because she didn't originate in Disney studios? Anyway, I commend it as a fun and worthy read and I hope Disney learns something from it.


The Looking Book by PK Hallinan


Rating: WORTHY!

I loved this book. It's a great idea especially if, like the somewhat beleaguered, but upbeat woman in the story, you have kids who are glued to the video screen whenever they get a chance. It encourages them to get to the other side of the screen - the screen door that is! - and enjoy the great outdoors.

Mom hands the kids a pair of eyeglasses each, but there are no lenses in them! She advises the kids to put them on, and to go outside to see what they can see through these special 'glasses'. It turns out that the kids notice more wearing them than they're used to seeing - especially on the highly restricted and biased canvas of a video screen! It also turns out that they learn they can see just as much even without the glasses, so their whole world opens up. I think the story is a great and inventive idea to encourage kids to pay attention to the world around them and get away from the idiot box for a while. I commend it.


Me by Tony Bradman, Bill Brandon


Rating: WORTHY!

In the Care Bears Big Wish Movie, there;s a scene where Me Bear accidentally catches sight of herself in a mirror and exclaims in surprise, "Oh! Me!" which fro me, watching this with my kids years ago, was the funniest thing in the whole movie and made having to sit through the rest of it worthwhile! Maybe that's why this book title caught my eye (don't worry, there was no injury - I still have my sight!).

There's an interesting juxtaposition of last names between the author (Bradman) and the illustrator (Brandon) here! The book itself was very short and simple, and aimed at lending some identity to young children who may have been befuddled one time too many by peoples' tendency to tell them they have their mother's eyes, and their father's ears and this that and the other thing.

If all her parts 'belong' to someone else, then who exactly is she? It's a good question, and this book has her decide that she's not anyone, but herself, which is the only valid and rational conclusion! I think this might be a good read for kids who have been told one too many times that they're made up of bits of other people! I commend it.


Eloise and the Very Secret Room by Ellen Weiss, Tammie Lyon


Rating: WORTHY!

This was a fun book based on Kay Thompson's 'Eloise' stories. I've never read any of those, but I have an audiobook on reserve from the library. There were only five original books, one of which was published posthumously. They were originally illustrated by Hilary Knight. I did see a movie based loosely on them some time ago which was entertaining. I think it was titled Eloise at the Plaza. Thomson, who was born Catherine Louise Fink in 1909 died two decades ago, but her legacy evidently lives on.

The very secret room turns out to be the hotel's lost and found closet, and there is so much stuff in there that Eloise can spend all day hidden there playing games and dress-up using the various items she discovers in the closet. She's inventive and playful and has a good time, and so will any kid who reads this - or who has it read to them. I commend it as a fun book, with nicely rambling illustrations by Lyon.


Mike & Spike by Diane Namm, June Goldsborough


Rating: WORTHY!

Mike and Spike are magpies and this story is about a race to migrate south for the winter. The problem is that magpies really don't migrate, so I'm not sure where the authors got that idea from. That aside, the story was fun and nicely-illustrated by Goldsborough. It's a bit like the tortoise and the hare, but there's a fun twist at the end.

One of the birds is a dedicated flyer, taking off with his little backpack and heading south, whereas the other is a bit lazy and wants to find the easy way, so we get to see a variety of vehicles (cars, trains, a fire truck), as he tries to cheat his way there by hitching a ride, but of course none of these vehicles are going the distance. He also naps and lollygags, and gets there last, but he doesn't know his friend also cheated - and was smarter about it!


Safari Babies by Lisa McClatchy, Cindy Kiernicki


Rating: WORTHY!

This was a sweet book for young kids talking about African animals (mostly mammals as usual - you won't find a crocodile here, but you will find an ostrich) and their young. It's brief, colorful, and informative, and covers a variety of critters starting with Lions and zebras, and going on through elephants, gazelles, hippos, meerkats, warthogs, and so on - the usual suspects. A bit more variety would have been nice. Some emphasis on threatened species would have been good (some of the species here are vulnerable or threatened, but there was nothing said on that topic). Overall, this isn't bad for kids to learn a bit about the world, so I commend it as a worthy ready for young kids.


The Doorbell Rang by Pat Hutchins


Rating: WORTHY!

This was an amusing and nicely illustrated story that's really about math. Or is it really about sharing a plate of cookies? Anyway, it's really about generosity of spirit.

One or two kids are sitting down to enjoy a large plate of cookies, but that doorbell rings. More kids come in, and each time they divide up the cookies, the doorbell rings again. Finally they're down to one cookie each when that pesky doorbell rings again! Are they going to have to divide the individual cookies into pieces? Or maybe some good Samaritan will help them out?

This was a fun story about interruptions, good nature, and sharing, and I commend it as a worthy and educational read for kids.


Jamaica's Find by Juanita Havill, Anne Sibley O'Brien


Rating: WORTHY!

Jamaica (who may actually be from Jamaica for all I know!) is a young girl who likes to ride her bike and ride the swing in the park when there are few other kids around and no one is crowding to use the swings. This one afternoon on her way home she does just this, and discovers a couple of things that got left at the park. She returns one of them to the lost and found, but the little plush dog, which has seen better years, she takes home.

Then she feels guilty about it, and the next morning she hands it in to lost and found as well. Returning to the park she meets another little girl and on befriending her, learns that this girl lost something at the park the day before! I wonder what it could be? It's a perfect friendship. I enjoyed this story about honesty, integrity, and friendship, and I think it's perfect for young kids.


Deputy Dan and the Bank Robbers by Joseph Rosenbloom, Tim Raglan


Rating: WORTHY!

I can feel a bunch of children's book reviews coming on, and there aren't many more amusing ones to start it off with than this one. I rather suspect that the author had more fun writing this one than any kid will reading it, but it amused me at any rate. Some would argue that's easily done....

Deputy Dan is new to the job and unfortunately, he's rather a literal kind of guy. You tell him to answer the door and he'll go say "Hello" to it. You tell him to cover the door, and he'll fetch a blanket and hang it over the door. But when it comes down to finding criminals like the scrambled egg gang, he's willing to go to no lengths to catch them, and he doesn't! You tell him they're dirty crooks and he'll make 'em take a bath!

This was amusingly illustrated by Tim Raglan and even more amusingly written by Joseph Rosenbloom. My kids are too old for this now (or maybe not!), but they would have loved it when they were younger. I commend it as a fun read.


Sunday, March 3, 2019

The Tale of Genji: Dreams at Dawn vol 1 by Waki Yamato


Rating: WORTHY!

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

Erratum:
"Beatiful black hair" on p220 Beautiful is misspelled.

The original Tale of Genji was written by someone with the honorific of Murasaki Shikibu. She was a Japanese writer and lady-in-waiting at the Imperial court during the Heian period, and she lived around 1000AD. She was strictly speaking not a 'Lady'. The 'Shikibu' referred to her status as a relative of a high ranking official in a ministry, so 'Lady' is an approximation. Murasaki seems to have referred to the wisteria plant and its color which the Japanese probably did not differentiate between.

No one knows her real name, but some suspect she may have been Fujiwara no Takako. She was married for two years before her husband died, and later retired from court with her daughter. In between those times she wrote an ongoing 'novel' about a fictional character in the Heian court, known as The Shining Prince, and commonly referred to as 'Genji'. This guy was a bit of a playboy (as this pull-no-punches manga reveals), who having lost his mother early in life seems to have pursued a need to replace her with a lover who had her qualities.

He fell in love with his stepmother, something perceived as forbidden, but she's not the only one. Every few pages he finds another woman who inspires powerful feelings, yet every one of them seems inappropriate for one reason or another - that she's an older girl with whom he grew up, so there are sibling feelings involved, or that she's a lower class woman who lives in a small house in the city, and on and on. It's like he can only love she who is decidedly wrong for him to love!

I enjoyed this story and I'm now inspired to actually go read the original (in translation of ocurse! LOL!) that's been sitting on a shelf to my right as I sit typing this, for several years. The author published this manga some time ago and it has been rereleased to coincide with the opening of “The Tale of Genji: A Japanese Classic Illuminated” at MoMA in NYC. To prepare for writing it, Waki Yamato traveled to the locations where the Heian court had existed and visited museum exhibits to see the kind of clothing they would have worn.

She even was able to don one outfit and have photos taken so she could see how it hung and moved. The effort was worth it, because the artwork is beautiful. My only problem with it was that the drawing style tends to render characters to look very much alike and it was at times confusing and a little harder to follow the story when one new character after another was whisked in and out.

The design of the book was a bit confusing too. This was an ebook, which slid up and down the screen on my pad, not left to right. It began at the front of the book rather than at the rear, as many manga do, yet the page had to be read from right to left, not the western left to right, and this was really confusing to begin with because some of the panels made little sense until I figured out what they had done here! Also page numbers are not visible, and there is no slide bar to navigate the whole book so you can't tell at a glance where you are in it. You can only see page numbers if you tap the screen twice or during the actual swiping form one page to the next.

This was also a bit annoying, especially since, in swiping up to the next page, if you accidentally started too low on the page it would bring-up my iPad's nav bar which then necessitated a tap on the center of the screen to dismiss it. That was also annoying! So not the best design for an ebook, but I'm guessing it was as usual, never designed as a ebook, but as a print manga which was then crammed into ebook format without much thought to practicality. Publishers really need to get on the ball with this and decide what it is they're publishing these days! A book cannot be all things to all formats! That aside, though, I really enjoyed the story and the art, and I commend it as a worthy read.


Friday, March 1, 2019

Sun Kisses, Moon Hugs by Susan Schaefer Bernardo, Courtenay Fletcher


Rating: WORTHY!

This was a warmly-written kids book which offers way to feel close to someone you love when they're not right there before you - or when they may even be far away. Told poetically by Bernardo, and illustrated equally poetically by Fletcher, it advises turning to nature - which is usually a good idea provided we don't destroy it first. It was a fun read and I commend it.


Brilliant Ideas From Wonderful Women by Aitziber Lopez


Rating: WORTHY!

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

This was a great book championing women who invented something or greatly-enhanced something yet who have received little or no credit for it. The only one in the entire book I'd heard of was Hedy Lamar so shame on me! But now I know better!

This book is aimed at a young audience, but it's educational for anyone and everyone, and it's important to realize and properly understand that it wasn't white men who did everything in history. Nor was it all white women, so having someone of color in here would have been better, but for now, I'll take this. Maybe volume two will fix that other discrepancy.

This was an ARC, so there were some errors in it which I presume will be fixed before the final edition comes out. I list them here as (hopefully!) a help to the author and publisher. The section on Stephanie Kwolek, the inventor of Kevlar®, talks about nylon as being natural, like silk, but it isn't! It is organic in that it contains carbon, but that's not the same as saying it's natural. Nylon is very much artificial.

Page 23 ends the description in the middle of a sentence. It would be nice to have the rest of that sentence! This same thing happens on p30 where it seems to suggest that Mary Anderson invented the windshield rather than the windshield wiper! In this context, and from what I've read, the tram operator wasn't stopping repeatedly to clean off the windshield, but driving with the front windows open because of the sleet. This is how Mary came to the conclusion that a windshield wiper would be a good idea.

Note that I don't merit a print copy for reviewing, so all I get is the ebook, and in that context, there is an issue on page 26. The ebook shows only one page at a time, not a double spread, so swiping to this page made it appear as though it was a continuation of something from a non-existent previous page. It was only when I swiped to the next page that I saw that the title section for this double spread was on the second of these two pages. This isn't obvious and is in fact confusing in the ebook. On p27, where the article actually begins, there is also a grammatical error where it begins, "Helen's initially wanted to study..." There's an apostrophe 's' too much there, it would seem!

On page 28, Maria Beasley's birthdate is completely wrong. She could hardly have invented an improved life raft used on the Titanic if she was born 35 years after it sank! Should the date be 1847 instead of 1947? I don't know since I couldn't find a birth date given for her, but 1847 would make sense. Finally, on page 32, there's a Spanish phrase at the end of the description, which appears to be a Spanish translation of the start of the previous sentence. I don't know what that's all about (given the author's name perhaps the original of this book was written in Spanish?), but it certainly doesn't belong there in an English edition!

Those issues aside (and believe me I understand how easy it is to make goofs like that - we authorial wannabes have all been there!), I commend this as a worthy read and an educational read too.


The Art of Modern Quilling by Erin Perkins Curet


Rating: WORTHY!

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

I had no idea what quilling was - never heard of it, which is why I was interested in this particular volume. It turned out to be quite fascinating. It's a skill that can be - I assume since I'm not a quiller myself - learned quite readily with some practice, and it requires little in the way of equipment to pursue this. The results are charming if they're to be judged by what this book contains. On that topic, I have to observe that this author seems to have an inordinate fondness for butterflies, but they were very pretty, and there is much more contained here than just alluring lepidoptera!

The most elaborate item she demonstrates is a clock face to which was attached a clock mechanism to create a wall-hanging, working clock. The work involved seems to my not-even-amateur eyes to be heavy and requires a dedicated crafter, but the result is quite stunning. I have to say though, that the utility of it to me was lessened by the fact that the clock had so many components and was so colorful that it was more likely to befuddle than enlighten anyone who was trying to decipher the time of day from it! As a hanging decoration however, it was truly eye-catching.

I think I was most impressed by the jewelry the author constructed. The paper is curled, glued, and treated with some sort of fixative so it's not just raw paper. She created a pair of dangling earrings which were rather bell-shaped and quite pretty, and she made a necklace out of quilled hemispheres of paper glued together to make spheres, and threaded onto a string. The end result was remarkable. Not that I plan on making any of this myself, but I can't help but admire the skill and work that went into all the things she made. They were solid, colorful, beautiful to look at, and very attention-grabbing.

There's a quilling article in Wikipedia if you want to learn a little about the art, but if you want to learn how to actually do the art, then this is definitely the book to go with. The author has clearly mastered this, and has gone beyond mimicking things - as anyone would do when developing her skills - and she has moved on into a fascinating and creative world of her own. I commend it for a captivating and instructional glimpse into a world I had not known even existed.


Colorways: Acrylic Animals by Megan Wells


Rating: WORTHY!

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

I've reviewed several books about art and painting over the last few months. I don't consider myself an artist by any means, but I have dabbled, and it is a topic which fascinates me and in which there is always something to learn - especially if you're a writer and want to imbue your stories with a little realism. It doesn't hurt to absorb some advice from established artists in books like this to sort of sprinkle yourself with a bit of authenticity to use in your writing projects. Plus the books are interesting in themselves. I'm always happy to learn how artists do what they do and get such appealing works out of the seemingly paltry source materials of some colored pigments and some brushes. It's really quite magical when you think about it. The paintbrush as a magic wand! Paint as fairy dust!

This book is firmly in the acrylic camp, and it takes a loose and playful approach to painting animals. This artist definitely has fun, and the art here isn't about absolute photographic realism, but about conveying a sense and feeling for the animal subject and making it stand out, in both how the basic image looks and also in the colors it employs including some collage techniques in one image.

The subject titles are amusing. We have complementary cows, pointillistic pandas, tetradic llamas, and vibrant flamingos. The titles are a hint to the technique the author/artist is going to use and the shades and hues of paint that are going to be employed in it, because each exercise follows a slightly different strategy to reaching the end goal, although there are certain rules about building-up the painting which are common to all. The level is beginners, so if you're just starting out, have a little experience, or have never picked up a brush before, this should still work for you. I don't think anyone is so advanced that they can't learn from a new talent!

There was one section on painting a giraffe that I found interesting for several reasons. The author shows her work - like anyone taking a math test should do! - so you can see the steps to the result, and sometimes looking at those early images, I wondered if I were painting this, would I have stopped there and not gone on to 'finish' the work. Is a work of art ever finished? I guess it is if the artist thinks so, but there are different places any individual can stop and say it's done, so it was interesting to think about that. Another reason this was interesting is that the giraffe image was laterally reversed in the final picture. I think someone got an image the wrong way round, but it didn't detract from the effect of seeing the resulting finished-image after following all the steps to get there.

The book is replete with hints, tips, suggestions, and most importantly, encouragement, and the whole works well together to give anyone a solid grounding in expanding their range and ability if they're looking for a leg up. I commend it as a worthy read. Each time I read something like this it makes me want to go pick up some supplies at the art store and get to it! Fortunately for my kids' clothing and dietary needs I restrain many of these impulses! But setting yourself up with some basic brushes and colors doesn't cost that much these days, and you can paint on pretty much anything you want! Grant Wood's American Gothic was painted on "beaverboard" which is more like cardboard than it is like canvas! So grab this book and get to it!


The School of Numbers by Emily Hawkins


Rating: WORTHY!

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

This was a comprehensive and fun book with quite a few tips, pointers (indicators - not the dogs, which I found a bit disap pointer ing...), and hints along the way, and it covered a surprising array of mathematical concepts from simple math to powers, and from geometry to negative numbers. It even finally got me a visual that clarified in my mind why the so-called Monty Hall problem makes sense!

This 'problem' is where a person offered a choice to open one of three doors (or maybe boxes). One of the options contains a nice prize, the other two contain a booby prize or nothing at all. The person chooses which door or box to open, then the host (Monty Hall in the original show, although the problem predates his show) opens one of the booby prize doors showing you that it was wise not to choose that one. Then he gives you the option to change your choice. Should you change? It seems counter-intuitive, but the fact is that you will more than likely improve your odds of winning if you change. Many people (even some mathematicians) find this hard to believe. I did initially, and even when I decided that changing your choice was the indeed the better option, I still couldn't get my mind around why! Now it's clear thanks to this book!

But the book contains much more than that, and it explains things clearly and simply, with good examples, and little exercises for the reader to follow (with the answers!). There were a couple of errors in the book - or at least what seemed like errors to me, but math isn't my strong suit, so maybe I'm wrong. I'll mention them anyway. There was a section on geometric progression which used the old story of starting with one grain of rice on a chess board, and doubling the number of grains on each subsequent square. It's a great demonstration, but on page 47 it's seemingly implied that a chess board has only 62 squares! Wrong! Eight squared isn't 62!

The other issue was on tessellation (I told you this book was comprehensive!) which is a fascinating topic and really only a fancy way of saying 'tiling', but it suggests that triangular tessellation requires adding 6 walls whereas hexagonal tessellation requires only 3 and this is what makes bees so smart? I could not get my mind around that concept at all - not the smart bees, but the walls. I had no clue in what context this was supposed to be true. I mean if you draw a triangle and want to add another triangle, you have to draw only two more walls, and there's your second triangle making use of an existing wall from the first. If you have one hexagon and want to add another, you have to draw five more walls!

If you have two hexagons side-by-side, you need to draw four walls to make another, whereas if you have two triangles, you need draw, again, only two walls to make a third! Admittedly, if you have three existing hexagons, making a shallow cup shape, then it's true you need add only three more walls on the concave side to make a fourth hexagon, but with three triangles, depending on how they are joined, you still need add only two walls - or perhaps even just one wall. Now maybe I am missing something or maybe the concept that was being conveyed here wasn't worded very well for clarity - or was over my head(!), so like I said, I may be wrong but it seemed to me this needed something more to be said!

But that was a minor issue and I'm happy to commend this as a worthy read and a great math tutor for young minds.


Maria Montessori by Isabel Sanchez Vegara, Raquel Martín


Rating: WORTHY!

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

This was another in a series of which I've read and reviewed several, nearly all of them positively. This is about a woman who brought a fresh perspective to education, starting with children who had some sort of mental impairment. Back in her day (her real work began at the turn of the century) these children were not well-cared-for and were written-off in terms of assessing their capabilities and futures. Montessori changed this and showed that with the right stimuli, these children had capacity far beyond what they were typically consigned to in life.

The book doesn't cover everything. Notably missing is Montessori's own child which she had 'out of wedlock' as it used to be called. She chose to remain a single mom because had she married the father, she would have been expected to give up her work, which she refused to do. Is this something that very young children need to know? I guess that's up to the parent/guardian and what they think their child can handle, but it's not necessary to include it in a book like this, although her son did end-up assisting her in her work when he grew older.

The book was informative, well-illustrated, and told a good - and true! - story. I commend it as a worthy read.


Heavy Flow: Breaking the Curse of Menstruation by Amanda Laird


Rating: WORTHY!

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

I've long been glad I have only one X chromosome to deal with, and this book rubber-stamped that for me! The author takes on the myths and nonsense surrounding menstruation, and straight-talks her way through it, setting a few things to rights as she goes. I could have done without the more fringe elements of the book, which fortunately were rare. The author references naturopathy a lot, and that, as far as I'm concerned is pseudo-medicine, as Britt Marie Hermes's website will confirm https://www.naturopathicdiaries.com" (or any competent doctor!), but that was a small part and I had no problem with her observations and recommendations elsewhere.

The book discusses, in depth, the menstrual cycle and the body parts it affects, down to biochemistry and hormones. It spares no important detail, and it explains everything in clear language, discussing every aspect and dispelling any vestige of perceived shame, embarrassment, negativity or any other bad feeling about a perfectly natural event that is in fact not a curse, but a vital sign which can help a woman to understand her body and get the best out of it including, unless you're sadly unlucky, an improved outlook and experience during "that time of the month".

I watched a short documentary on Netflix recently, titled Period. End Of Sentence and directed by Rayka Zehtabchi. This was before it went on to win best short documentary in this year's Oscars so I wasn't just jumping on the paddy wagon! It highlighted yet another aspect of how badly women are done to when it comes to ordinary - although fortunately in this case not quite everyday - experiences that women undergo, and for me it highlighted why books like this one are important and ought to be read by anyone, regardless of how many X's they carry or how they perceive themselves regardless of the X factor in their chromosomes. An enterprising woman in India, Aditi Gupta, used crowdfunding to create a comic book talking to young girls about menstruation. "Menstrupedia" has now been translated in multiple languages. It's another step toward breaking this ridiculous taboo over a perfectly natural bodily function.

This was a Kindle edition and also an advance review copy, so hopefully the technical problems I found in it will be fixed before it's 'out there', but just in passing I should mention that once again, Amazon's crappy Kindle process turned yet another book into kindling in places. In the section, "THE PHASES OF THE MENSTRUAL CYCLE" a table showing follicular and luteal phases was completely mangled by Amazon's conversion process. You absolutely cannot have anything fancy in a book or novel if you're going to put it through the Kindle mangle, because Kindle will slice, dice, shred and julienne it, I promise you.

In addition to this, I also noted, about 30% in, this random text that didn't seem to be connected to anything else: "years to be different from the period that you have in your twenties or after childbirth." Much later in the book, there was the partial sentence "...prioritize food over supplements. Fresh," which ended right there, abruptly and was then followed by two screens of another mangled table which I assume in the print book is an inserted box. This was followed by the rest of the beginning sentence, "healthy food should be the first source...." Again mangled courtesy of Kindle.

There was another case, which I saw several times, where the page header became incorporated into the text, again courtesy of Amazon's crappy Kindle conversion process, so the text looked like this:

when a Chinese medical textbook
Managing Your Period Pain 177
recommended cannabis flowers to ease symptoms during menstruation.
Again if you're submitting the book to Amazon, you need to strip it of anything fancy or even remotely fancy. No page headers, no page numbering, no inset boxes, no plethora of fancy fonts. Just plain vanilla all the way is the only thing Kindle can handle in my experience, and it sometimes has isses with that, too. This is one of several reasons why I will have no truck with that mega-corporation any more.

There may have been other quirky instances of text mangling that I did not notice or that I forgot to record because I was engrossed in the reading! There was at least one instance of a misunderstanding. Around 80% in I read, "...it's only going to increase that inflammation, which in turn may increase pain and discomfort. It's like rubbing salt into the wound." But the reason salt was rubbed into a wound wasn't to increase pain or to torture, it was to sterilize the wound, so I'm not sure this metaphor is apt. On the other hand, it is used commonly to mean, 'make things worse', quite contrary to when it's used to compliment someone as in 'you're the salt of the Earth'. English language is totally screwed-up; that's part of the joy of being a writer who uses it!

But technical issues aside, I really enjoyed this book and consider it not only a worthy read, but an essential one. It made for fascinating, sometimes disturbing, but always educational reading.


What Do Machines Do All Day? by Jo Nelson


Rating: WORTHY!

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

The title of this book amused the heck out of me so I had to request it and see what was up. The book is about various scenarios (the farm, the building site, the mine, the mall, and so on), and in each section we learn about several machines you might find there and what these machines do.

I have to say the initial picture, introducing the scenario and showing all the machines, was a bit busy and hard to take in at first glance, but perhaps this was intentional because there is a breakdown after that page which shows the individual machines and vehicles and explains what they do (in first person voice!), then you're challenged to go back and find them in the big picture. I imagine young children will have fun with this and enhance their seek and find skills to boot, which is never a bad thing.

The text was simple and straight-forward, and the drawings were somewhat stylized to keep them simple too. They were very colorful. It would have been nice had there been a word about safety here and there, and oddly, my ebook ARC version of this (I don't merit a print book!) was doubled - so when I got to the end of the book, it started over again, and was therefore twice as long as it needed to be. Presumably that will be fixed in the final edition.

Overall I thought this was a fun book and a worthy read for young children.