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

Friday, November 2, 2018

Around The World in Every Vehicle by Amber Stewart, Duncan Beedie


Rating: WORTHY!

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

Written well by Amber Stewart, and illustrated equally well by Duncan Beedie (both good Scots names I have to say!) this short story picture book was a fun romp across the globe employing an assortment of vehicles to make the trip.

It's educational as to geography as well as to different habits across the world when it comes to transportation, as we follow the rather foxy-looking Van Go family on a trip that's a trip! They set off from home on their bicycles and consult their map with seven major destinations marked all across the globe. They take an open-topped tour bus (see, it's not always raining in London!) past a hoard of traditional and distinctive-looking London taxis, and Freddie Van Go is moved to consult a book (yeay Freddie!) to discover what other kinds of buses there are.

This sets the tone for the other pages of the book, many of which are double-page spreads, so I wouldn't rely on your smartphone to read this in ebook form (Unless your kid is just looking at the pictures). You'll need a tablet - and a preferably regular-sized one rather than mini to read the small text.

I'm not sure it quite covered every vehicle (I saw no tank in there, for example!), but it sure covers a host of them: sea, air, land - and under the land! Yes, there is a trip through the Chunnel! It made for a colorful, varied, educational and fun read for young children. I commend it as a worthy read.


Animosaics: Can You Find It? by Surya Sajnani


Rating: WORTHY!

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

I'm currently working on a children's book that contains puzzles, so I've been idly noting what's out there for a while, and I was curious about this one. The puzzles here are nothing like those I'm using though, so it was interesting to see another approach. It's all in color here, and though I'm not sure how it would work for anyone who is color-blind, the puzzles are not as easy as you might think, even for someone with all his opsins in a row!

The pages are each a single color - very bright and rainbow colors to be sure, but only a single color per puzzle. Hidden in the color and disguised by a mess of shapes and patterns are certain specific items you must find, different on each page. Some of them were a pain to uncover! Not that I'm especially great at puzzles, but unless you're a puzzle solver of Olympic proportions, this will certainly occupy your time pleasurably and satisfyingly, assuming you enjoy puzzles to begin with, and perhaps even if you haven't found your kind of puzzle yet! I commend this book as a satisfying and colorful brain exercise!


Sunday, October 14, 2018

Peep by Maria von Lieshout


Rating: WORTHY!

This is another in what appears to be a series of confidence-building books by this author. I have no idea how many there are in the series. I know there are at least three and this author, who is Dutch by birth, has published over a dozen children's books on various empowering themes. I just happened on them by accident in my local library while checking out a display of kid's books the librarians had set up. Unlike the Goodreads 'librarians' for example, who don't appear to do a damned thing, the librarians in my local libraries are fun and inventive and hard-working, and their efforts pay off.

This one concerns a young chicken name Peep, who is following her brothers and sisters, who are in turn following mom, line-astern, on an outing, but when they reach the curb it seems to be so very high for a little Peep who wouldn't say Bo to a sheep. Mom and the siblings seem to have no trouble with it, but Peep can't handle this at all. However, with encouragement, pluck and determination, Peep makes the leap and does not regret it - that is until she reaches the other curb and has to figure out what to do next - which is delightfully where this tale ends.

I really liked this story. Just like the previous volume I read by this author, this one is also colorful, simply but competently drawn, amusing, and playful. I liked the humor and the lesson, and I commend it as a worthy read for young children.


Splash by Maria von Lieshout


Rating: WORTHY!

This playful and amusing little book for young children tells the story of a seal who can't seem to do much and feels very disappointed in itself until one day the sun falls into the ocean and it's up to the seal to replace it. The seal discovers that it can do things when those things are very important to it, and this leads to reconnecting with its friends. Fortunately for small and delicate flippers, the sun is only the size of a small beach ball and not too hot (it was cooled off by the ocean no doubt!), so this task isn't too arduous.

This is a colorful book (not all the seals are navy, for example...) and proved inventive and quite entertaining. The author appears to have a series of these, and I shall be reviewing one other like it by the same author. I commend this one as a worthy read.


Pelé the King of Soccer by Eddy Simon, Vincent Brascaglia, Joe Johnson


Rating: WORTHY!

Written by Eddy Simon and translated by Joe Johnson, with illustrations by Vincent Brascaglia, this was an enjoyable graphic novel about the remarkable career of Edson Arantes do Nascimento, better known to the world as Pelé, who was an outstanding Brazilian professional soccer player.

He played for a club team at the tender age of fifteen and for his national team at the age of sixteen; at seventeen, he put in a sterling performance at the 1958 World Cup, the first of three in which Brazil won with him on the team. He's the only player to have been on three world cup winning teams, and he scored 77 goals in 92 games during those competitions. He averaged almost a goal a game throughout his career, scoring some 650 in 694 professional club appearances.

There was a less stellar side to his life in his multiple marriages and multiple affairs outside of those marriages, some of which brought offspring. The story doesn't delve very much into those or his son's conviction for money laundering. It keeps the focus mostly on soccer, recounting his career almost game by game.

This graphic novel tells the story well, with lively, colorful, and well-crafted illustrations, from his barefoot, ball-made-of-rags street soccer days of his early age, to this triumphs as a professional (in soccer boots and with a real ball!). His hero was his father who was also a professional player until he got a bad leg injury and could play no more, but he encouraged his son to excel and Pelé did not let him down. I commend this novel as a worthy read and a piece of sports history that's well-worth learning.


The Woman Who Smashed Codes by Jason Fagone


Rating: WORTHY!

For a book offering a sort of biography of a woman who was both an outstanding and unassuming code-breaker, Elizebeth Smith, and who was such an important part of solving codes both in wartime and peace time policing operations (such as breaking rum runner's codes for example), I was a little disappointed that the story seemed to defer regularly to the men in her life, as represented by her husband and another man named Fabyan who was a patriarchal and hyper-controlling figure, but who nevertheless saw her potential and first invited her into his group before she ever met her husband-to-be.

Naturally you can't tell her story without including those people, but it seems that in trying to be so many things, the book failed at being the thing it claimed to be: a story of a woman who smashed codes. In view of this, I often found myself wondering, as I read it, if the author had initially written it about the married couple as a team, which they very much were, both professionally and personally, but later tried to change this by purveying it as a story about this one woman. I don't know if he did or not, but looking at it that way seemed to be the only way to make sense of the way it was written. The only other explanation is that he simply didn't get it. If that's the case, at least he can take comfort in the knowledge that our misogynistic jackass of a president would be proud of him.

There are bits in this book which seem irrelevant or hypocritical. The book often goes off at tangents and rambles on as much about those many other things as it does about its 'star'. It's supposed to be championing Elizebeth Smith, as judged by the title, but when this little code-breaking lab run by Fabyan brought in army officers to teach them about these techniques, it mentioned that four of the officers wives also took the course and did well in it. It also highlighted that even while praising them, this guy Fabyan made no mention of them by name, only as the wives of the officers, yet the book commits the very same sin by not telling us who these women were! This was another thing which made me wonder if the subject of the book originally had not been Elizebeth, but 'Mr and Mrs Friedman'.

That said it does tell a strong story about her and I learned a lot from it, so on that basis I am willing to rate this as a worthy read. You can always skips the bits that don't concern her, but I recommend getting this book from the library as I did or buying it used.


Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell


Rating: WARTY!

This was a wildly optimistic audio book experiment given that I'd already tried Rainbow Rowell's Fangirl and DNF'd it because it was an unmitigated disaster. I found myself forced to adopt the same approach here because this was simply not getting it done. Essentially it's a bit of a rip-off of Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan which was published in 2006 and is a much better read.

Rowell seems to be an uninventive writer who loves to tell rather than show, and who seems to think that stereotypes are daring. No, they're really not, but they do win awards evidently, which is probably why I'll never win one. The first problem is that the basic story is antique: a boy and a girl hate each other, but fall in love? Been there done that to death.

The second problem with this is that it's written as dual narratives which suck. The only kind thing I can say about that was that at least it wasn't in first person. The third problem is that the author doesn't even pretend she can write such a novel about modern youth, so she sets this in the eighties so she can write it about her own youth. Yawn.

The chapters are all called either 'Eleanor' or 'Park' and each is read by one of the two readers: Rebecca Lowman and Sunil Malhotra, and they lay out the perspective from the PoV of each main character so the author can tell you rather than show you what's happening. They meet on a school bus which is populated with stereotypes: jocks, cheerleaders, nerds, and so on. It's painfully tedious; there's nothing new, and I cannot commend it. I'm permanently off reading anything further by this author.


I Am Peace by Susan Verde, Peter H Reynolds


Rating: WORTHY!

Subtitled "A Book of Mindfulness" this book aimed at younger children, is intended to teach them how to be in the moment and not let extraneous worries or concerns tip them off their balance. I just reviewed a children's book called Verdi. Now I review one written by a Verde - and illustrated well by Reynolds. The book is short and to the point and offers advice on how to enjoy the now and not let worries and fly-away thoughts distract too much. The book is simple and modestly colored, with nice drawings and good advice for people who tend to let things get in the way of living life to the fullest. Everyone could use a little of that, and I commend this book as a worthy read.


Verdi by Janell Cannon


Rating: WORTHY!

This young children's book was hilarious. A hardback with glossy colorful pages and limited text, it tells the story of a young snake by the name of Verdi, who loves his yellow coloring and doesn't want to mature to the usual green scales. He tries to fight this, but in the end he loses and realizes that change isn't necessarily a bad thing.

As far as I can tell, Verdi is Indonesian - supposed to be a green tree python (Morelia viridis) based on his coloring, his life in the trees, and his residence on an island. These pythons are actually under threat because of smuggling to feed the pet market, and pythons like these do not travel well - many die before they ever reach the pet store.

What impressed me about this book was the beautiful artwork which manages to be colorful and realistic without looking like it belonged in a biology book. What amused me was the text and the snake commentaries from various other members of the local Pythonidae family. Verdi isn't impressed with these adults and decides to strike his own course, but no matter what he does he doesn't seem to be able to stop the spreading o' the green! He is determined, but nature beats cherchez.

His antics are amusing, especially the way he catapults himself off the top of a tree by holding a branch in his mouth and tightening his coils until he lets go and springs into the air. I laughed out loud at that. His 'spa treatment' with the mud was also amusing. I liked this book very much and commend it as a worthy read for young children - and even a few adults!


How Do Dinosaurs Eat Their Food by Jane Yolen, Mark Teague


Rating: WORTHY!

I'm not a huge fan of this author, but this short, amusing, and colorful pasteboard book for young children was a worthy read I thought, and the art by Mark Teague was great.

I think Dinosaurs are overdone these days, but this was a different take: working on the assumption of something which never happened in real life - that humans and dinosaurs existed together. This book amusingly takes that farce one step further by turning dinos into fellow citizens, who have lives and like to go out to eat - which seems to be true based on fossil evidence. Their al fresco dining habits are well documented.

Unfortunately their manners leave a lot to be desired and this is not so well-attested by fossil evidence, which is why this book is important! I found it entertaining, especially for the intended audience, and I commend it as a worthy read.


Hair by Leslie Patricelli


Rating: WORTHY!

This was an amusingly written and colorfully illustrated young children's pasteboard-style book about hair, which I found amusing. I can't speak to whether young kids will find it the same, but my best guess is they will enjoy it. It's the perfect read when you're readying to take them to the hairdresser for the first time. It was actually in a hairdresser's that I found this in a rack for the very purpose of entertaining young visitors. It covers several aspects of haircare and hair interests and I thought it was fun and a worthy read for the intended audience.


The Family Under the Bridge by Natalie Savage Carlson


Rating: WORTHY!

This was a story first published in 1958 and was recommended to me by a friend and while it wasn't the most original or entertaining story, it was one that was engrossing enough and made for a worthy read, although it's not one I would have picked up had it not been recommended. It is commendable that the author chose to set this in a different country than the USA where lamentably, far too many authors seem to think is the only place any story can be set!

It takes place in Paris, France, and is of this single-mom family which is on its uppers, as they say, and is homeless. The family is befriended by a somewhat cantankerous homeless guy who knows his way around the system, and though he's initially resentful of the family invading his turf, he starts to take them under his wing and is instrumental in helping them get back on their feet again.

So, it's a bit trite and simplistic, and somewhat overly optimistic, but it does tell a short and meaningful tale that can be used to educate young children about how bad luck can strike at any time through no fault of the family concerned, and that homelessness does not involve only those 'strange adults' who live on the streets in the seedier parts of town.

I commend this as a worthy read for young children.


Artemis by Andy Weir


Rating: WORTHY!

This audiobook, written by the author of The Martian and of a short story called The Egg that I read and enjoyed back in March of 2015, turned out to be quite entertaining, but I still feel no compulsion to read The Martian especially not after having seen the movie.

This story, read beautifully by Rosario Dawson, and written quite well until the ending which sort of fizzled a bit for me, still managed to squeak in as a worthy read. It's about Jasmine "Jazz" Bashara who is a smuggler on the eponymous Moon colony. She's hired by billionaire Trond Landvik, who lives on the Moon with his crippled daughter because it's the only place she can be mobile on crutches. Given his billions, this made no sense to me but I let it slide. Landvik, wants Jazz to destroy beyond repair the four moon harvesters used by the corrupt Sanchez Corporation to mine aluminum, the processing of which creates oxygen which is consumed in the city. This will allow him to take over the mining operation.

Why the four huge harvesters are all conveniently in exactly the same place goes unexplained, as does why it is that a constant resupply of O2 is needed. They don't recycle the CO2? Anyway, Jazz manages to cripple only three of them and now she's being hunted by a hitman from O Palacio, the Brazilian crime syndicate which runs Sanchez, and by Rudy, the Artemis 'police chief'. She discovers there's something else going on here and as body count rises, she sets out to solve it, almost wiping out Artemis as she does so.

Throughout this story I had mixed feelings about Jazz who alternately annoyed and amused me. She managed to avoid pissing me off so much that I wanted to ditch the story, although the ending was far too convenient given the major crime that Jazz is responsible for. I can't imagine the movie company that is supposedly turning this book into a movie will actually let the plot stand as is, but I guess we'll see if it ever comes to fruition.

That said I did enjoy this for the most part, so I recommend it as a worthy read, although you are advised that it's best to check parts of your brain at the door before going into it. I think a better story would have been about Landvik's daughter taking over his company when he dies, but that's just me not wanting always to go for the lowest common denominator as too many authors seem to do these days.


Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Luisa Now and Then by Carole Maurel


Rating: WORTHY!

Published in French originally as Luisa: Ici et là (strictly speaking, Luisa Here and there), with this English version adapted by Mariko Tamaki and translated by Nanette McGuinness, this oddball time-travel fantasy brings a younger Luisa to the future to meet her older self, and neither is well-pleased with the other.

Teenager Luisa sets off on a bus trip and ends up falling asleep. When she awakes she's at the end of the line and gets out to discover she's nowhere near where she thought she was, not in space or time. A young, but mature woman to whom Luisa is loosely attracted helps her and slowly it dawns upon Luisa that this woman lives across the hallway from her own older self, so to the outside world, the younger Luisa feigns being a cousin of the older until they can sort out what happened and how to put it right. It's a learning experience, and not a pleasant one, given how prickly and persnickety the two of them are. Or should that be 'the one of them is'?

The young Luisa refuses to believe that she ends up as this 'spinsterish' older woman whose life is unadventurous and downright boring. Yeah, she lives in Paris, but whoa, is this second-rate job the one young Luisa dreamed of getting? No! Older Luisa has tried to make her life pain-free, and appears to be in serious disagreement with Socrates that 'The unexamined life is not worth living'. In arranging her life thus, she's failed to realize that she's attracted to females and in particular, the very one across the hall that younger Luisa finds so appealing.

So far so good, but the longer they spend together, the more alike the two of them become and they realize that it's urgent that they split up before they become indistinguishable from one another. Young Luisa must return to her original time and place. This book is done as a fine art piece, with entrancing line work and watercolor painting, and it was a pleasure to read: fun, engaging, and overall a worthy read. I commend it.


This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki, Jillian Tamaki


Rating: WORTHY!

This was a passable story of Rose, a girl beginning to venture into womanhood, told in graphic novel form by the Tamaki cousins.

Rose has been vacationing in a rented seaside cottage with her parents every summer since childhood, and each year she hangs out with her friend, Windy, who also vacations there. The two of them have fun, chat idly about all kinds of things, begin to notice boys, and realize they're much more observant of adult drama now than ever they were before, and much less able to discern any sort of role model in those grown-ups they see. And there seems to be a lot of drama in this particular vacation spot.

I've become a bit of a fan of the Tamakis lately, but their work can be very patchy. This was a cut above the patchwork and while the artwork was nothing spectacular, it was perfectly serviceable. The story wasn't exactly glittering, but it was enjoyable for a one-time read, and so I commend this as a worthy read.


Cakes in Space by Philip Reeve, Sarah McIntyre


Rating: WORTHY!

This was an hilarious middle grade (or lower) illustrated sci-fi chapter book about Astra, the only child of a space-traveling family who were put into cryogenic sleep for the 199 year trip to Nova Mundi, the planet where they will live. Philip Reeve, better known for his Mortal Engines series (the movie for which is due out this year - 2018), does a fine job with the writing, and Sarah McIntyre goes to town on the charming, somewhat sepia-tinted illustrations which literally run riot through the story.

Unfortunately, Astra was a bit peckish before settling down, so she headed off to the dining hall to request that the AI there bake her the most scrumptious cake ever - a cake unequalled. It did exactly as she requested. As passengers slept, it experimented with making cakes and eventually created ravenous cakes - not cakes that you want to eat ravenously, but cakes that will eat you! These cakes begin roaming the spacecraft, and poor ardua ad Astra, who wakes early, has to do battle with them.

As if that wasn't bad enough, the spacecraft is drifting off course and is overtaken by multi-eyed pirates who are seeking to rob it of all its spoons. Yes, spoons. Don't give me that - like you have no idea how valuable spoons truly are. You're fooling no one with your feigned ignorance. Can Astra save the day?! Of course she can. Why even ask such a dumb question? Well, to tell the truth, I'm working on my blurb writing skills and they consistently ask ridiculous questions like that. You have to really disrespect the reader to be a successful blurb writer, and treat them like morons, so how did I do?

But seriously, I thought this book was a joy! Some readers might find it a bit trite or silly, or caked with sugar, but I'm guessing the readership at which this is aimed will love it. I did, and I'm not ashamed to admit it! I commend this as a worthy read, and I promise you it's not half-baked.


My Boyfriend is a Bear by Pamela Ribon, Cat Farris


Rating: WORTHY!

This is the third Pamela Ribon Graphic novel I've read and I've been entertained by all of them. Besides, how could you not want to read a graphic novel with a title like that? Especially since it's quite literal! I admire a writer who can take an absurd concept and treat it as though it's an everyday thing and get an entertaining story out of it. I found this especially refreshing after reading and negatively reviewing a rather poor children's book about a bear. This was the perfect counterpoint to that.

If you have some feelings of eeww over a girl dating a bear, you might want to reserve them instead for the girl's old boyfriend, who is a complete creep and thinks he owns her. He's way more eeww than the bear could ever be, trust me - I am not a bear-faced liar..... You might want to consider, too, that this is a commentary - a metaphor - as is exemplified if not outright spelled out, by the awful guys she lists as previous dates. If a bear makes a better partner than these guys, what does it say about male attitudes towards women? In this day and age, this is a seriously important topic and any way of getting that across is to be welcomed, because too few men are getting the massage.

The story begins with a history of bad relationships, and this woman (no, her name isn't Ursula unfortunately, it's Nora) isn't really in the market for anything new, when a forest fire pushes a bear out of the forest and into her back yard. The bear and Nora make a connection, and she realizes he's a lot sweeter than any guy she's been involved with recently, but how will he be accepted by her friends and the world at large? Well, he's perfectly integrated, apparently. The Japanese sushi bar staff love him! As does one of her two closest girlfriends. The other? Not so much. It's interesting that the most accepting one was a woman of color and the least accepting, a white girl who, I'm guessing, inexplicably voted for President Lowlife. Her parents are a bit skeptical too. Curiously, Nora's father is more onboard than her mother.

Of course, not everything is smooth sailing. Sometimes life is as rough as a bear's fur. There are breakages, and bear claw marks are worse than cat claw marks (unless they're the marks of Cat Farris, the artist, who did a great job. We'll always have Farris...), but the bear finds work and helps out around the house, and Nora learns to interpret bear speak, so it's cool. Even when winter approaches and the bear is feeding heavily trying to pack on the pounds for the upcoming hibernation, they manage to make their budget work. But when he leaves for his cave, can she expect him to return in the spring? Only time will tell. Either Time or Newsweek. One of them has to have the story, right? So bear with the author and enjoy. I commend this story.


Monday, October 8, 2018

Magic Beneath the Huckleberries by Kristy Tate


Rating: WORTHY!

Errata:
“She’d and hand Annie a sack lunch” (omit 'and')
“he’d by her a prettier one” ('buy', not 'by')

This was a really short story (less than ten pages) about a young girl, Annie, whose mother is dying of cancer. Annie is a book addict who would sneak reads of children's books at the library that her mother probably wouldn't approve of (maybe some of those are the 'banned' books I'm reviewing this month!). She also reads her mom's romance novels that a friend brings by, sneaking them into her own room when her mom is sleeping. Mom doesn’t have long left to live and Annie realizes that praying won’t do any good. The ridiculous idea that a benign god would make a person beg for something that the god could grant effortlessly were it not actually a malign and cruel god, says it all.

Annie wonders if the school witch coven can help, but discovers there's more sauciness than ever there is sorcery going on in that 'coven' in the woods, sitting around camp fires with boyfriends. On her way back from her pointless excursion Annie discovers some magic of her own, hiding in the huckleberries! This was very short, but sweet and I recommend it for a fast and entertaining read for anyone who likes a warm fuzzy story.


Jamilti by Rutu Modan


Rating: WORTHY!

Jamilti was a curious collection of short stories in graphic novel form - sometimes very graphically. Overall I consider this a worthy read, but it's quite patchy, be warned.

The art leaves something to be desired to my taste, but the perspective in the story-telling is interesting. It opens with a violent story of a suicide bomber, and follows with a wide-assortment of tales, including one about an OCD cosmetic surgeon, one about a fortune-teller supposedly blessed with real power, one about a Disney-themed hotel, and one about an Israeli musician who travels abroad hoping for a big break only to discover the whole thing was set up by an obsessive fan.

So like I said, a mixed and very odd bag, but enough to retain my interest. It just squeaked under the wire, and so I commend it as a worthy read.


Drama by Raina Telgemeier


Rating: WORTHY!

This author has an ear and an eye for middle-grade drama (as well as an amazing name!), and I loved the ambiguous title which related both to a musical play the school is putting on, and also to the lives of those involved in the play in one way or another. The production is "Moon Over Mississippi." I've never heard of it, and have no idea if it's a real play or not. I have no interest in sharing the obsession far too many people have with the civil war in this country. What the play was, was irrelevant to the story, but as it was, it was set in the civil war and was of course a story about love.

Callie is the girl and set designing is her game and she ends up with a triumph on her hands as one thing after another seemed to be set on derailing the production, but solutions were always at hand, even if some of them were thoroughly unexpected and entirely unpredictable. It would have been nice if the lesson Callie learned was that she did not need a man to validate her, but that was a relatively minor part of the story compared with the fact that - in everything except boys - she was a self-starter, and a smart, independent young woman who got things done.

In fact, the disconnect between her can-do success with the play and her cluelessness with boys was rather amusing, and the idea that the boy she wanted kind of fell into her lap at the end was like a cherry on top. I know others didn't like it, but I thought it was funny.

This was an early example of the author's work - her second book of four as of this writing. I've never read anything by her before and it's good to know that she goes on to hopefully ever better and greater things that I still have to look forward to! The artwork was gorgeous and the color supplied by Gurihiru (a Japanese team of which I assume Kawano was the colorist) was wonderful.