Showing posts with label educational. Show all posts
Showing posts with label educational. Show all posts

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Calligraphic Drawing by Schin Loong


Rating: WORTHY!

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

I've been reviewing several books on art recently, including one on calligraphy, and this one adds to the collection of those I commend both for their artistry and their teaching.

This one particularly intrigued me because I've never seen a calligraphy book which really talks about art as opposed to writing. The closest most calligraphy books get to art (although arguably, calligraphy itself is art, but you know what I mean - I hope!) is in the flourishes and embellishments added to the written word, but this one goes a step further and is solely about art, with writing added here and there as a kind of embellishment!

Clearly the author is a master of this form, at least as judged through my amateur eyes. The creations she has on display here are charming, inventive, accomplished, and beautiful to behold, but this is not an art gallery, it's an instructional book which takes you through the steps she followed to make these images of (from the book blurb) "pigeon, swan, crane, rooster, jellyfish, goldfish, peacock, parrot, owl, raccoon, elephant, puppy, rabbit, fox, and zebra." That list doesn't do the book justice though, because the real art is in the hints and tips of how to get these ideas from your mind onto the page via your pen, and there are plenty of those, provided by someone who has clearly, been there, done that, and got the calligraphy art to prove it!

I was inspired by this and with the timely help of a Christmas gift card and the untiring assistance of a Barnes and Noble employee (you don't get this at Amazon!) was able to find and buy a modest calligraphy set myself, to start my own practice which will probably not make perfect, but which will give me a great deal of satisfaction, I don't doubt! Who knows, maybe a future book in The Little Rattuses series will have a calligraphic element? I doubt very much it will be to the standard exhibited by this author, but hope springs eternal in rats, you know! I commend this book highly, and not only for being a thing of beauty, but also being a thing of great utility. It'll be a joy to be holding this book in your hands!


Saturday, December 22, 2018

How Rude! by Clare Helen Welsh, Olivier Tallec


Rating: WORTHY!

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

This book for young children, illustrated simply, but colorfully and effectively by Tallec, describes a tea party organized by Dot. She invites Duck, who has no social graces whatsoever. Why? I'm, going to duck that question....

He (or perhaps she!) knocks things over, tosses clothes on the floor, takes things without asking, drinks from the vase of flowers, and on an on, until suddenly, in a magical moment, duck gets it and realizes that misbehavior has been perpetrated! I see this book as a great opportunity to talk with young children about what went wrong on each page, and how it could have been avoided, or fixed if it couldn't have been prevented. I consider it a worthy and educational read for young children.


Sunday, December 16, 2018

Illuminatlas by Kate Davies


Rating: WORTHY!

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

Despite the fact that I am rating this as a worthy read, because for young and inquisitive kids I don't doubt that it will be fun and educational, I have to say that I saw little point in sending this book out as an ebook for review purposes without the accompanying colored 'lenses', because without those three lenses, whether this book is print or electronic, you are completely unable to gage the quality and utility of the images!

Those pictures are printed in three colors, and when viewed through of one the three lenses, red, blue, or green, reveal different things. For each continent ion this atlas, red revealed cultural highlights, blue revealed natural wonders, and green revealed the continental outline and surrounding ocean.

I am not a professional reviewer. I don't get paid for this. I don't even ask for thanks (and rarely get it!) for any of the getting on for three thousand reviews I've posted on this blog. I review books because I love books, and because I think good books deserve promotion, especially when they're aimed at children. So I do not merit print versions of books even when they're designed as print books.

All I get is the ebook, and in order to fully review this particular one properly, I had to do a screen-capture on a couple of images, import then into an art program I have, add a transparent layer to it, color that layer in each of the three primary colors in turn, and then reduce the opacity of that color by 25% in order to see the image below and gather what it is I'm supposed to see when the reader looks at these pages through one of the colored lenses. Consequently I did not do this for all images! I did get the picture though - literally - and it's quite fund when viewed not just through that lends, but through a child's eyes. It's rather reminiscent of that 2004 movie National Treasure where the trio is looking at the map thorough the different colored lenses of Ben Franklin's spectacles.

So again, while I wonder what the publisher was thinking in issuing this for review sans lenses, and while I'd personally have some reticence about buying a book which has not one, but three separate additional and crucial components to it, any one of which could become lost and spoil the experience, I still have to say that I consider it a worthy read provided you can use the lenses (or fashion an adequate substitute for any that get lost). It's fun for kids to explore things by themselves and take control of their reading experience, and it is magical to discover how light can hide and reveal secrets.


Saturday, December 15, 2018

Who are You Calling Weird? by Marilyn Singer


Rating: WORTHY!

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

This was a treasure trove of joyful illustration and rewarding information about weirdoes among the animal world. I'm quite well read about the natural world, and especially about oddball critters, but this book held some surprises for me. Some of these animals I had never heard of before; some I am quite familiar with, such as the narwhal, and the pangolin, but I'd never heard, for example, of the Pacific barreleye which is a startling creature to say the least. If someone had invented that for a sci-fi story you would never have believed it.

The book covers over twenty animals, including humans who are in some ways the weirdest of all. The illustrations were colorful and amusing, and the book very educational and eye-opening (barreleye-opening in my case!). I thought it was wonderful and a great way to fascinate a child with the wonders of our natural world, and how delicate and rare they are, and how much they need our love and protection. I commend it unreservedly.


Planet Earth by John Farndon, Tim Hutchinson


Rating: WORTHY!

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

Don't tell me you didn't want to know this 'Stuff you should know about'. There are adults who could learn a lot from this, but it's aimed at younger readers, with dazzling, full-page (and multi-page!) illustrations and quite a bit of text. It explains Earth, from the core to the sky, and from dusk until dawn, and from north to south, and from dry to wet - in short, everything that goes on with Earth as a planet is in here: How does the Earth move and orbit, how night and day work, why the moon seems to change over the course of a month, what's under the Earth's crust and how does this make continents move? It covers volcanoes and mountains, rocks and water, air and clouds. It digs into caverns and ocean trenches, and discusses storms, rain and the wind, and offers tips on becoming your own weather forecaster!

Designed from the ground up as a print book, this doesn't work too well as an ebook which is the only version I had access to, and especially not on a smart phone! Even on a decently-sized tablet though, the illustrations need to be stretched to read the text. Some of the pages were single screen, but most were a double-page spread, and some were multipage spreads - I imagine the actual book has some pages where a leaf on one page or both folds out to double the size of the illustration.

I'm by no means a scientist, but I am well-read in the sciences for an amateur and I saw no problems with any of the information here, so I commend it as a worthy and very educational read which will answer pretty much any question a younger child has, and stir up a passion to go find out more detail in older children.

I don't know if the ebook review version, which is the only version an amateur reviewer like myself ever gets access to, was abridged, but mine was in two different downloads. The book is numbered through page 80, where the index begins (there's also a glossary), but the ebook numbering on the bottom of my screen went only to page 21! Now some pages where multi=page spreads, so for example what was listed as page 10 by the ebook reader was numbered on the pages form 20 through 23, but even so, the page numbering went only to 57 on my ebook, so I was missing about a third of the book.

It was also difficult to maneuver in the ebook version - hard to swipe from one page to the next, and troublesome to stretch the pages to read some of the text. Also, it was a bit slow to load the next page. I commend this book as a worthy read (assuming the print book has all the pages!) and based on reading only about two-thirds of it, but I cannot commend the ebook version (assuming that there is one, based on my experience of this review copy.


Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Dan Zane's House Party by Dan Zane, Donald Saaf, Claudia Eliaza


Rating: WORTHY!

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

This is one party that got my vote! It's a fun and educational look at folk songs from a wealth and variety of origins, from the 'A' landmasses: Africa, the Americas, Asia, and Australia, and they even let in the 'E' landmass: Europe, along with some island nations, so that pretty much covers everywhere. Curiously, Antarctica didn't get a shout. I don't know why!

There is a brief, but interesting introduction by the author, followed by the song discussed, and accompanied with music notation by Claudia Eliaza, and cute illustrations by Donald Saaf. The list contains songs you have undoubtedly heard of, some of which have become popular hits in the west, along with many you probably haven't heard of, some of which have been hits in the past or in non-English languages.

The collection is extensive and is backed by an index, but since this is evidently designed as a print book, that index isn't tappable, to take you to the song listed. Neither is the contents list, but the search function in my ebook reader works well! The book also has chord diagrams. The songs are divided into interestingly-named categories:

  • Songs of Wonder & Waves
  • Songs of Dust and Sunshine
  • Songs Heard From Open Windows
  • Songs of Gusto and Celebration
  • Songs of Love and Community
  • Songs of Childhood and Morning Dreams
  • Songs of Mystery and Miles

This was a fun read and I am sure you can find many of these songs on You Tube or some other online venue to get a feel for how they sound and for the tempo and rhythm, although there are no links in the book. Such links would have been useful. I was able to find pretty much every one I looked for although I only looked for a random sample of them.

One other thing I thought would have been useful was translations. Some of the songs are not in English and no translation of the words is given. While they no doubt sound great in the foreign tongue (a couple that i listened to did, particularly Pigogo, I felt it would have been nice to know what those tongues are saying!

That aside, I think this is a fun and instructional book, and a worthy read for anyone interested in the history and sound of folk songs and I commend it.


Saturday, December 8, 2018

En Plein Air: Acrylic by Mark Mehaffey


Rating: WORTHY!

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

I'm not a painter or artist of any kind notwithstanding my The Little Rattuses children's book series which is far more cartoonish than ever I'd label it art, but like they say: I may not know much about art but I know what I like, and it is a truism! Art, as a form of beauty, is very much in the eye of the beholder.

That doesn't mean we can't learn to better appreciate more of it, and to me that's why it's always useful to read a book like this one, which is not so much about art appreciation, but very much about art creation, particularly in the outdoors (the En Plein Air of the title) - and importantly how to travel light when you're on an expedition to find a locale and capture something there on canvas.

It occurs to me that there's no better way to appreciate art than to understand from an artist's perspective, what it takes to put together an eye-catching painting. This is the first of two En Plein Air book I shall be reviewing. The other is about watercolor - a medium that is often taught to kids in primary school, which is probably a bad idea, but while on the one hand it is an unfortunately cheap and favored solution, on the other, it is an introduction to art, and any such intro is better than none, I guess!

I have to say that the book is aimed at a print book audience, so the ebook version I had to review sliced up some of the paintings, and failed to show pages in juxtaposition, thereby diluting if not derailing the author's message and making it harder to compare one with another when you had to keep sliding the screen back and forth instead of sliding your eyes back and forth.

I've seen some ebooks that did present as a two-page view and I typically found that annoying since there seemed to be no reason for it, but in this case, there really was a valid reason to show the book in this format and it was viewable only as single pages, which downright spoiled parts of it. But as an amateur reviewer, ebooks are the new print copies, I'm sorry to say!

But anyway! The author starts out by briefly introducing the medium and the tools by which it is applied, talking about acrylic paints, and about canvases, brushes, and techniques for bringing all three together into a harmonious result. It's a bit like magic, isn't it?! The brushes are the wands, the medium is the spell and the painted canvas is the result.

Referring often to his own long experience, the author discusses lighting, paint hues, tints, tones and shades, paint temperature (and no it's not about freezing your butt off while sitting outdoors painting!) and about differences between acrylic and oil - and it's not just the price! There are even differences within acrylics which are well-worth knowing. There are many photographs - of paintings! - which admirably illustrate the points he makes in the brief, but highly illuminating text sections.

I have to say that some of the pictures did not look great to me, but many of them have an impressionistic element to them and I am not a big fan of the impressionists. I can't say how this author (who was a public school art instructor for some three decades) would describe his own work; I can only speak to how it appears to my amateur eyes, but to them, other paintings looked wonderful.

Talking of impressionism, two of these really made an impression on me. My favorite was the Morning Glow which he included on page 98 in a discussion of temperature blending. That painting was great and truly captured its subject. The two paintings on the next page, Corner in Winter and Deep Woods Violets were worthy of a special mention, too.

The other painting was revealed in stages starting on page 84, as the artist walks us through putting together an entire painting from scratch: how he does it and what his thinking is at each stage. This was very educational. The interesting thing for me though, was that I considered the painting to be perfect and highly atmospheric on only step three, and liked it less well as other elements were added to complete it in step 6.

It just goes to ask that old question: if a work of art ever really complete, and how do you know if it is? Eye of the beholder again! Another example was when I thought the pencil sketch made to assess values for a painting on page 82 was more impressive than the painting which is led to, but maybe that's just me! I'm sure you'll find your own likes, dislikes, and loves here as anyone would.

So I thought this book was well-worth the reading and if you don't find fresh inspiration and a renewed drive to go out there and do it after reading this, then it's all on you - right next to those paint splashes! I commend it as a worthy read. You can find the author's website at markmehaffeyfineart.com.


Friday, November 2, 2018

ABC for Me: ABC What Can She Be? by Jessie Ford


Rating: WORTHY!

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

This was a sweet and fun (and full of color in more ways than one) book for young children about a girl dreaming of what profession she might follow when she grows up, and unlike for far too many women of older generations, everything is open to her, but it's curiously in alphabetical order! So two ways to teach!

She imagines one thing after another and appropriately she doesn't shun traditional feminine occupations, but neither is she afraid of exploring professions where women have been scarce or absent in times thankfully past. This is entirely how it should be because in the end, it is her choice what to do with her life! That's the whole point: she can be anything she chooses. She's not afraid to take charge of that choice, and no one has any right to condemn or even judge her for what she chooses.

This is a great book for young girls who might appreciate having some cool ideas put into their heads and any possibly perceived limitations shredded. I commend it as a worthy read.


STEAM Stories: The Great Go-Kart Race (Science) by Jonathan Litton, Magalí Mansilla


Rating: WORTHY!

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

Written simply by Jonathan Litton, and colorfully illustrated by Magalí Mansilla, this is another in a series aimed at promoting young people's interest in the sciences, technology, engineering, and math, and this one takes an engineering and a problem-solving approach, teaching a little physics and intelligent thinking along the way. Girls are sadly underrepresented in these fields and the professions suffer from that, so anything that serves to promote an interest in these subjects as a path to a profession, is to be welcomed.

It's the big go-kart race and our diverse boy-girl team are competing, but it's not simply a matter of steering the vehicle around a track! There are unexpected problems along the way and some very inventive and thoughtful efforts at solving them are required. Our boy and girl are equal though, and equal to the challenge, both of them contributing to the solutions. It's this team work, even in the midst of this highly-competitive race, that pays off, as it always will. I commend this as a worthy read for young children of both genders and all shades.


Sunday, October 14, 2018

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.


Tuesday, October 2, 2018

O is for Old School by James Tyler


Rating: WORTHY!

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

A is for apple is old school. This new look at children's ABC's is da biz! I loved it. There's no reason you can't have fun educating your kids, so why not start with this new look, where A is for 'all good', D is for 'dawg', H is for 'hood' and so on?! The book is colorful, amusingly illustrated, and spot on with the alphabet! I commend it as an original, amusing, and a welcome and different take on your ABC's! Word, Bro!


Thursday, August 2, 2018

I Spy the 50 States by Sharyn Rosart, Sol Linero


Rating: WORTHY!

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

Fifty States in Fifty Pages! This is intended as a print book, but all I merit as an amateur reviewer is the ebook, which is fine because I love trees far more than I love print books, but it doesn't quite work as the author intended because one of the treats of the print version is a spy-hole through which you get a glimpse of the next page so you can try to guess at your next destination. These spy-holes are represented by little red circles in the ebook.

The tour begins in New England and proceeds from there and a linear and switchback fashion. On each double-page, a state is represented with many small and colorful pictures by artist Sol Linero, and the author writes a few words. I think she had the easier job! The words are a tease because you have to find three things she names, each starting with the same letter. This worked fine until we reached Vermont, the third state in the trip, where I was told to find a Sugar Shack, a snowshoe, and a sleigh. I found the first two, but there ain't no sleigh in Vermont! I had to wonder if the fishing lure was mistaken for a sleigh up in the top right corner, or if a snowboard was mistaken for one at lower left?

The rest of the pages I checked (not all of them!) I didn't see any such issue with, and maybe I'm blind that I can't see the sleigh. There are so many pictures, it might be easy to miss something. I haven't been to all fifty states, but I've visited many and lived in several, and it was nice to be reminded of some of the things I'd seen there. The book is fun, and colorful, and offers a lot of things to keep a child's interest. I commend it as a worthy read and a great distraction on a long trip!


Wednesday, July 18, 2018

It Takes a Village by Hillary Rodham Clinton, Marla Frazee


Rating: WORTHY!

I have to say that yet again, Goodreads screwed up royally with a book blurb. Here's how it begins: "In Mrs. Clinton book..." - way to denigrate a female author by making her an appendage of a guy. Not 'Hillary Clinton', but Mrs (Bill) Clinton. Seriously? She might have forgiven him for his shameful conduct in the White Wash Ovum office, but I never will.

I know this illiterate blurb was more than likely hand-crafted by a reviewer whose doesn't know how to cut and paste from the publisher's book description, but isn't this kind of thing what the world's most useless librarians (Goodreads style) need to fix? Oh right, that's not what they do. Frankly, I have no idea what they do do, but I do know for a fact that it ain't much.

Finally comes the only one of the collection of young children's books by celebrities that I looked at today, that sent any kind of a decent message or had any kind of respectability to it.

Told in gentle, community-building tones and illustrated sweetly and diversely by Marla Frazee, whose work I enjoyed when I favorably reviewed Clementine and the Family Meeting by Sara Pennypacker back in January of 2017, this book does the job it sets out to do and I commend it. Ignore the professional Clinton-haters and naysayers, take a look at it online and make up your own mind!


Tuesday, July 17, 2018

They say Blue by Jillian Tamaki


Rating: WORTHY!

I commend this book! Reading it was like reading a series of haikus. The theme is color and it meanders all over the world and the seasons, starting with the blue sky and ocean in summer, and drifting through the seasons. It was beautifully written and gorgeously illustrated and I fell completely in love with it. I enjoyed Jillian Tamaki's drawings in Gertie's Leap to Greatness by Kate Beasley, which I favorably reviewed back in June of 2016. It's nice to see her out on her own. I recommend this nook, even if you don't have children!


Hedge Hog by Ashlyn Anstee


Rating: WORTHY!

I used to keep pet hedgehogs when I was a kid and I adored them. Naturally when I saw this book I was interested in reading it. The key to how this is going to play out is in the fact that in the title, hedgehog isn't one word!

Hedgehogs are known fro balling up, but no hedgehog balls up like this one did. The animals are all getting ready for winter (unnaturally it must be said, if verisimilitude is your goal in children's books!) and are bunking up together to stay warm, unlikely bedfellows snuggling down for winter. The only one who seems to be antisocial is the hedgehog who frankly is rather prickly, and who refuses to let anyone share his hedge.

Well things go south - and it's not the animals. Hedgehog suddenly finds himself without a bunk and the other animals are kind enough to forgive him and let him in. Lesson learned.

This was a fun and playful book with amusing images and I commend it for any child who might need to learn a little about sharing, or who might just like a sweet, fun book that can open up a great discussion about selfishness.


Sunday, July 1, 2018

We Love the Library by Mike Berenstain


Rating: WORTHY!

This was a short, fun, colorful children's book about a trip to the library. There's not much to say about that, except that anything which encourages kids to read is to be encouraged itself! Reading is truly an important thing in a child's growth, and that;s why I think books like this are a good reading tool. I recommend it.


Round is a Tortilla by Roseanne Greenfield Thong


Rating: WORTHY!

This was a small format, short, fun book with a strong Latin influence, aimed at teaching young children simple shapes and encouraging them to find shapes in things they see. It was colorful with illustrations by John Parra that were unsophisticated, but without being too simplistic, and the text was an easy read, warmly written, and offered a look at Latin life as well at common shapes. I think this is a fun read for children and educational to boot. I recommend it.


Sloppy Takes the Plunge by Sean Julian


Rating: WORTHY!

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

Sloppy is a tree dragon, and as anyone who knows anything can tell you: tree dragons love being mucky and do not mix well with water. Unless it's well water...well, maybe. But. Dewdrop is a fairy and as anyone who knows anything will also tell you, fairies do not hug mucky tree dragons. So maybe Sloppy will take a bath? But what about sharks and crocodiles? But what about baby ducklings who are afraid of the water? Maybe sloppy can help?

This was a fun book designed to lure kids into the bathtub, and anything that can do that is worth a read! I liked the book. it was fun and boisterous, and colorful and playful. I also liked the characters, and I consider this a very worthy read.


Riley Knows He Can by Davina Hamilton, Elena Reinoso


Rating: WORTHY!

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

This is a great children's story by Davina Hamilton told in poetry, and remarkably illustrated by Elena Reinoso in an almost 3D effect. It was really nice to see a good mix of children - not all white folks - for a change. Riley is acting in the school play. He plays a benevolent king, but the real life Riley has nerves. Fortunately, his supportive family are there, and his big sister tells him that whenever he has doubts he should remind himself that he can do it. He takes her advice, and it works!

This was a nice, breezy, upbeat and supportive story that moved fast, made its mark, and was a pleasure to read. I recommend it.


Don't Dangle Your Participle by Vanita Oelschlager, Mike DeSantis


Rating: WORTHY!

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

Vanita Oelschlager taught school for two decades and now teaches children via books! I've favorably reviewed at least two of hers before: A Tale of Two Daddies and A Tale of Two Mommies. This one is precisely one of those teaching books - aimed at something that's really quite important for any writer who doesn't want to look like a complete goofball! Or perhaps more accurately, an incomplete goofball?! I've noticed errors of the type demonstrated here in published books which I've reviewed, so no one is free of this pitfall.

I can never think of 'dangling participle' without thinking of Tim Curry in the Sylvester Stallone comedy movie Oscar. He plays a speech therapist, Doctor Pool...oh wait! I need to re-arrange that sentence! Curry plays a speech therapist, Doctor pool, who is being employed by Stallone's gangster character, "Snaps" Provolone, who is trying to go legit. At one point, Connie, Snaps's henchman, says, "Congratulations Doc! Will there be a honeymoon following?" and Dr Pool replies, "Watch it there Connie, you've got a dangling participle!" which Connie completely misinterprets of course.

That movie didn't do so well, although I love it, but there's nothing naughty or risqué in this book. Using examples of everyday children's activities: going to the zoo, eating ice cream (hopefully not an everyday activity!), skateboarding and so on, we get to see the error and then the correction, supported by some amusing and colorful illustrations by Mike DeSantis and there's even a page at the end showing how to draw and color a lion! I liked this book and think it well worth sharing with your children.