Showing posts with label young children's. Show all posts
Showing posts with label young children's. Show all posts

Sunday, July 14, 2019

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

Rating: WORTHY!

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

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

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

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

Hope by Corrinne Averiss, Sébastien Pelon

Rating: WORTHY!

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

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

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

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

Saturday, July 13, 2019

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

Rating: WORTHY!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rating: WORTHY!

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

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

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

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

My First Fact File Oceans by Jen Green, Wesley Robins

Rating: WORTHY!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My First Fact File Weather by Jen Green, Tom Woolley

Rating: WORTHY!

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

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

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

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

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

I commend this book as a worthy and educational read.

My Kindergarten in 100 Words by Sophie Beer

Rating: WORTHY!

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

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

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

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

Sunday, July 7, 2019

My Very First Book of Colors by Eric Carle

Rating: WORTHY!

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

My Very First Book of Shapes by Eric Carle

Rating: WORTHY!

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

Friday, July 5, 2019

Show Me Cool Magic by Jake Banfield

Rating: WORTHY!

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

This was a fun book in the end. it got off to a bit of a slow start for me when I realized that almost half of the book was taken up with information about staging a magic act rather than magic tricks. I started to wonder how many tricks there could be in the remaining few pages at this rate, but in the end there was a bunch of them, and while many of them are really for a young performer, and one of them was the same card trick twice, just done in a slightly different way, some of them are quite sneaky and sophisticated, so overall, I think this is a winner.

The tricks are varied and are explained by means of written instructions augmented by photographs, so in general it's clear what's happening. The trick section of the book opens with a discussion of basics covering card, coin, and 'mind reading' as well as magician's tools and troubleshooting - always good to have handy! It then lays out the tricks in three sections: openers, middles, and finales. Good to be organized!

The tricks themselves are fun. The openers include producing four aces out of a shuffled pack, reading your subject's pulse (not really - that's the illusion!), a body illusion, a vanishing pen - a neat and simple trick which is relatively easy to do with little practice. Once you've mastered that, you can also master the cut and restored shoelace trick! There is a total of ten tricks in the 'openers' section.

In the 'middles' are eleven more tricks, including the lie detector(!), jumping rings, stacked kings, pencil through a banknote, and how to make a coin appear to enter a sealed drink can! Yes, it can be done with some practice and trickery! 'Finales' brings a further nine tricks, including prediction and the always amazing cup-and-ball trick, with a surprise! In short, there is some thirty tricks here, ranging from simple, but effective, to rather more complex, but nothing that a willing child cannot do with some dedication and lots of practice. That's the real secret here: practice until you're confident, and once you master one trick, others will come a lot easier.

It doesn't matter whether you're planning on putting on a 'professional show' or you just want to learn some neat tricks to impress your friends and family, there is something here for all occasions. It's all about misdirection and illusion, and with some reading and practice, you can emulate the professionals. I commend this as a fun, worthy, and education read!

Play, Make, Create, A Process-Art Handbook by Meri Cherry

Rating: WORTHY!

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

It's very rare for me to be disappointed by a crafts or arts book from Quarto Publishing Group, and this one is yet another winner, full of fun, color, adventure and exploration. And all this from simple ingredients. The book covers painting and crafts projects as well as out-and-out fun projects such as making your own play dough, and your own slime!

An author with the most amazing of names - Meri Cherry - brings over forty projects - she calls them invitations, because really that's what they are: invitations for younger children (and likely older ones as well) to indulge in process art. What is that exactly? The author explains, but in short it really means the point of these projects isn't the destination; it's the journey - the learning of self-sufficiency, the growing of confidence, the freedom of exploration, and the joy of creativity.

The projects include collage, salt painting, self portraits int he mirror, covering a picture with clear plastic and paining on top of that to augment the original image, drawing with eyes closed, creating 'artist trading cards', and oobleck. Yeah, that one caught me by surprise because I'd never heard it called that before and I'm not a fan of Dr Seuss. The technical term for it is a non-Newtonian fluid, which is how I know it, but oobleck works better with kids! The thing is this term was introduced before it was defined (with a recipe!) on page 40, so I was lost for a while on that one!

That aside, the book was amazing, fun, and inventive, with internal links to things that are referenced in the text. These links never have a link back to where you were, unfortunately, but my app has a feature which allows you to return to the original page after a jump like that. The problem is that Bluefire reader - an app I normally swear by for reading ebooks, got into trouble when I reached page forty - I think it was.

It wouldn't swipe past there for love or money (I tried both!) and even when I slid the little bar at the bottom of the screen, the image wouldn't switch to the next page. I don't know what that was all about. I was able to download the ARC to Adobe Digital Editions and finish reading it in there, fortunately. Just FYI! I'm not the kind of reviewer who merits a print book, which is fine with me, but it does occasionally lead to technical difficulties!

The book covers a large variety of projects, including ice sculpture (after a fashion - no chain saws involved!), volcanic eruptions, potions, and crazy contraptions in addition to a bunch of regular art ideas, so no matter what your charge is into, this book doubtlessly has a bunch of things that will interest them. I commend it as fun, educational, and confidence-building. The book even includes tips about clean up (or avoiding it by staying clean, which is even better), so what's not to like?!

Thursday, July 4, 2019

When We Became Humans by Michael Bright, Hannah Bailey

Rating: WORTHY!

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

On the introductory page What's a Human?' - in the section on hominins, the text reads, "Humans and are closest relatives are called hominins" I suspect it should read, 'our' closest relatives.

Written well by Bright and illustrated nicely by Bailey, this book tells of the evolution of humans over 65 million years - and yes, that's when the first mammals date back to! People often say that it was only the destruction of the dinosaurs in the penultimate extinction event (we're going through the ultimate one right now) that 'allowed' mammals to evolve to become today's dominant class of living things (aside from bacteria and viruses, that is. And beetles! LOL!).

I'm not sure I buy that. Dinosaurs, in one form or another date back to some quarter billion years ago, and they didn't start to become dominant themselves until a major extinction event from which they profited, in much the same way we profited. But could mammals have become dominant if Dinosaurs had not died out? I think they could, but there isn't any way to really know! perhaps a more interesting questions is: would humans ever have evolved if dinosaurs had not died out?

This books isn't about speculation though - it's about what actually happened as testified to by the abundant evidence we have for primate and human evolution from fossils, from genetics, and from other sources. This books starts tracing that lineage from the earliest mammals such as Purgatorius (sounds like a Roman gladiator, right?!) to Archicebus, to Aegyptopithecus. Here's a tip - any complicated fossil name like that which ends in 'pithecus' - that means it was some sort of ape or monkey. This one - the fossil of it, that is, was first found in Egypt, hence the start of the name.

A couple of others were Proconsul and Pierolapithecus. Yeah - not all names follow the same rules! Proconsul was a monkey but it cheated a bit because there was an ape in London zoo when it was discovered, that was named Consul, so this was named to indicate it came earlier than modern apes. Duhh!

In language suitable for younger children, the book explains clearly not only what we know, but how we know what we know. Evidence from anatomy, from old DNA, from comparing skeletons, and even from studying modern DNA and how modern organisms are related, can reveal a lot, when you know what you're looking for and have a competent scientific understanding. Those without such an education will draw false conclusions and even make things up. Those people are not scientists, and don't know what they're talking about. Stick with a solid 150 or so years of evolutionary science, a steadily mounting trail of reliable evidence, and a solid track record, and you won't go wrong!

Next up comes the earliest precursors of modern humans such as Australopithecus - there it is again. You now know the pithecus part, but what of the Australo-? Well, what sounds like that? Australia! That doesn't mean it was found in Australia, but that word - that prefix, means of the south. Australia's in the south and this specimen was found in the south - but of Africa. Ah you ask, so why isn't it called Africanus? Well, there is actually one called Africanus! Can't use the same name twice!

The names kept on coming. At one point there was almost no fossil evidence for human evolution; now, scientists are finding it regularly as they learn more about where to look. The book discusses these findings, including what these primitive people ate (and yes, by this point they were more like people than like apes), where they lived, and how they worked with tools.

The scientist sho study these things have found evidence of rock shelters where primitive humans lived the fires they made, and the tools they created. They even named one species 'handyman' - Homo for 'human' and 'habilis' for handy - that is, they were good with their hands. The name is often shortened to H. habilis - the first part always with a capital letter, the second part always lower case. They weren't handy because they lived close by and could come over and fix something for you at short notice! Once the 'H's started showing up, many more were found and this book does a great job of laying out the story, and illustrating how they might have looked - remember we have only the skeletons, so we have to kind of guess how they looked, and one guess is as good as another!

H. heildebergensis and the Neanderthals are discussed next, the mysterious Denisovans, and even the 'hobbit' people - H. floresiensis! But you know what? All of these have disappeared, leaving humans: H. sapiens, as the sole surviving member of our genus (the genus is the first bit, the H, the species is the second bit, the sapiens. If there's a third bit, its a sub-species. All modern humans, no matter whether they look exactly like you or a bit different, no matter what country they live in or what they wear or believe, or eat or do everyday, are this same species. There's a chart toward the end of the book laying out all of these human and near-human species.

The book discusses how this all began in Africa, how the giant mammals of the world died out, and how humans spread from Africa to occupy every content on the planet - the most wide-spread single species there is. Maybe apart from rats. And mice. And bacteria. And viruses! I guess that's quite a few of us, huh?! There's a nice map showing how humans spread across the globe near the end of the book.

We went on - as the book makes clear, to refine our tools, to invent the wheel, to invent glue to hold weapons together to go hunting and to protect ourselves, to beginning agriculture, to domesticating animals - including the wolf which we now keep as dogs - and to inventing video games. Wow! Actually the book doesn't say that last bit - I added it myself. Bu we learned how to make things and then trade them with other communities to get other stuff that we couldn't find or make. Then came trade tariffs. Actually, I added that bit as well!

We went far beyond that over time to grow into and create the complicated world humans inhabit now. The book discusses healthcare, jewelry, art, and monument building, and then writing came along, of course, so we could record everything we did in order to benefit future generations - and this book is one of those results! I commend it as a fun, interesting, educational, and very worthy read.

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Primates : the fearless science of Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Biruté Galdikas by Jim Ottaviani, Maris Wicks

Rating: WORTHY!

Louise Leakey, the renowned, if controversial Kenyan paleoanthropologist, got three things unquestionably right - he talked Jane Goodall into studying chimpanzees, recruited Dian Fossey to study gorillas, and Biruté Galdikas to study orangutans. Each of these three were each self-starting groundbreakers in their respective fields: hard-workers who contributed immensely to our understanding of these three major primates, which in turn helped us to understand both ourselves and the primitive hominids that Leakey himself was studying.

I've read and enjoyed books written by each of these three "Trimates" as Leakey referred to them, and so it might seem strange to then go on and read a necessarily limited graphic novel about them, but I admire them immensely and I found this book amusing, educational, and well-worth reading as an introduction. It's suitable for young and old alike, and so serves its purpose well. It's divided into three sections, one for each of them, beginning with Goodall, then moving on to Fossey and Galdikas in turn, including sections in between where all three meet, albeit on very rare occasions. You can find photos online of these encounters along with much material about their research.

Only Galdikas, the youngest of the three, still remains in the field so to speak, having married a "local" and taken up residence down there, and she continues her research. Fossey was murdered brutally on St Stephen's day in 1985, and Goodall is in her mid-eighties, but still an energetic advocate for chimpanzees. I enjoyed this book and commend it as a worthy read.

Bird's Eye View The Natural World by John Farndon, Paul Boston

Rating: WORTHY!

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

"Pampas deer grass" should be ‘pampas deer graze' I suspect on the South American page.

This colorful and educational book is quite literally what it says: a bird's eye view of various places of beauty and fascination in the world, starting in the Florida Everglades and going down over South America, out to a Pacific atoll, then across the Pacific to Uluru Rock in central Australia, up over the Guilin Hills in China, across the Asian Steppes, down over the Himalayas, through East Africa, across to Wales, on to Northern Scandinavia, back to the Irish coast, and then to France.

At each stop we learn about the animals and plants that live there, and a little about the ecology and how the land got to be that way at that location. It was unusual, fun, and very interesting, and hopefully it will lure readers into learning more. I don't think anyone who has read this book or anything like it can fail to see what horrible things we're doing to our planet and how urgent it is that we stop doing those things and rectify the evil we've already perpetrated. I commend this fully as a very worthy read.

The Classroom Mystery by Tracy Packiam Alloway, Ana Sanfelippo

Rating: WORTHY!

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

In what's looking like a series here, I got the welcome chance to review a second young children's book from the same writer (Alloway) and illustrator (Sanfelippo) team who brought us The Map Challenge which I positively reviewed yesterday. Who says Britain and Argentina can't get along? Okay, you got me. No one says that. I just made it up to get attention!

Seriously, this book explores ADHD in the same way the other book took a look at dyslexia. In this book, the main character is Izzy, who can't forget that someone stole the classroom rabbit's food. She has a form of ADHD and cannot focus on the math lesson. Eventually she gets everyone involved in the crucial effort to find that poor rabbit's crunchy snacks.

The nice thing about these books is that they don't pick on the one with the condition, nor do they put him or her in a negative light. Instead, they emphasize the positive, and it's because of her 'super powers' that come as part and parcel of ADHD that Izzy is able to recall things and make connections that others do not - so, yes, you got it - she solves the mystery!

As usual (so it seems!) in the back of these books are teacher and parent resource pages, advising on certain aspects of (in this case) ADHD, and discussing events in the story and ways to improve on some of the deficits of attention that may hamper an individual at times (and no, it doesn't involve medication!). I liked this book as much as I liked the first one. Izzy was actually rather endearing, and I commend this as a worthy read.

Kitchen Science Lab for Kids by Liz Lee Heinecke

Rating: WORTHY!

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

You can't have a poetical name like 'Liz Lee Heinecke' - and that last name redolent of my favorite Dutch lager, without a certain confidence that whatever she cooks up in the kitchen will be worth followinbg. Not that I've cooked up any yet, but I have my list of ingredients prepared so I can try at least a couple of them over the July 4th weekend. I;ve made jelly rolls before, but never a tie-dyed one, so that's on the list. Plus I need the food coloring for another project related to my 'The Little Rattuses' series!

This book here is dubbed the 'Edible Edition' but I'm not sure why - unless the print version is printed with vegetable ink on rice paper or something! I suspect it's because there are other labs, and this is the one working with actual food. Overall I found it enjoyable. It is full of great ideas for fun foods and drinks, but more than this, it offers some science tips on why foods bake, cook, ferment, rise, and otherwise behave the way they do when manipulated in our kitchens. This was a fun twist that I really enjoyed because knowing some science is never a bad thing.

This book covers simple projects like 'mere' decoration (that's not 'decoration of meres' but decoration of foods, BTW), to tastier treats like desserts, as well as drinks, main courses, snacks and sauces (again with the poetry!), so there ought to be something for everyone. All of these recipes are nut-free and other potential allergens are identified, so those fears are also addressed. The preparations are aimed at being child-friendly too, so there are advisories about potential problem areas where an adult might be needed or is required.

The recipes begin not only with a complete list of ingredients, but also any other items needed to complete it successfully, and each step is laid out with a photograph so you can make sure you're staying on track - assuming you can keep your mind off sampling those ingredients along the way! There's a richness of recipes and no frugality of finished foods to enjoy when you're done. It's fun, easy to follow, great to look at, and it's educational! Who could ask for a more useful book than this? I commend this one as a worthy read followed by a worthy eat!

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Papa Put a Man on the Moon by Kristy Dempsey, Sarah Green

Rating: WORTHY!

This was a charming book for kids that runs along the lines of 'every little helps'. Papa had nothing to do with the Moonshot or with landing anyone anywhere, except in that he worked at a clothing factory and it happened to be one that produced a part of the lining for the Apollo space suit, so in the end, something he had touched in the course of his work went to the Moon and helped keep the astronauts safe while on the surface.

Sadly the book doesn't touch on the complexity of the Apollo Moon suit - or extra vehicular mobility unit in such typically tedious governmental jargon labeling that it was known as the EMU. Seriously. The suit was so complex that it took three years to design it and then another several years of modifications to reach the suit that was worn for the later Apollo missions. The one worn to the Moon debuted in early 1969 with Apollo nine. They were produced by ILC Dover which believe it or not was a subsidiary of Playtex, of bra fame, back then. The total weight of the suit all told was 200 pounds, but out in space and in the Moon's low gravity, it wasn't that much to carry.

The suit consisted of thirteen layers of materials designed to insulate, protect, and prevent air escaping, including rubber coated nylon, aluminized Mylar, Dacron, Kapton film, and Teflon-coated 'Beta filament cloth' to provide protection from fire after the horrible Apollo One fire in 1967. Naturally a children's book isn't the place to go into all that technical detail, but a word or two about the complexity would have been a good move. That aside, I liked this book for the unusual approach it took and for encouraging children to believe they can make a difference no matter what they feel is their lot in life.

Galaxy Girls by Libby Jackson

Rating: WORTHY!

Libby Jackson is a physicist and engineer who works for the UK Space Agency. She wrote this book to highlight the contributions women have made toward science and the various space programs, and have often gone unsung. Well...this book sings!

Divided into five sections, the book covers fifty women, and although the subtitle misleadingly says it's 50 stories of women in space, the majority of these women have not been in space, but have unquestionably and materially contributed to the success of everyone who went into space. The sections and the women covered are as follows:

  • The Origins of Space Travel
    • Émilie du Châtelet - or more formally, Gabrielle Émilie Le Tonnelier de Breteuil, Marquise du Châtelet, was a French author, mathematician, physicist, natural philosopher just before the mid-eighteenth century when women were not welcomed in any of those fields.
    • Ada Lovelace, aka Augusta Ada King, Countess of Lovelace was Lord Byron's daughter, but her mother kept her away from Byron and saw to it that she was educated in mathematics, which brought her eventually into the computing field invented by Charles Babbage. Lovelace was the first computer programmer.
    • Jeannette Ridlon Piccard was an aeronaut before there were airplanes. She was the first licensed female balloon pilot in the US and the first women to enter the stratosphere - and that's not metaphor. Where do you think Jean Luc Picard of the Enterprise got his name?!
    • Mary Sherman Morgan was a rocket fuel scientist who invented Hydyne which powered a rocket that put the United States's first satellite into orbit.
    • Jacqueline Cochran was the first woman to break the sound barrier.
  • The Dawn of the Space Age
    • Valentina Tereshkova was the first woman to fly in space - in the Soviet space program as it then was, when the Russians were the ones setting the pace and making all the firsts: first satellite into space, first man into space, first multi-person spacecraft into space, first spacewalk. What this book doesn't mentions it had the early soviet spacecraft were rather simplistic things as compared with US space craft, and the cosmonauts have very little to do or control.
    • Jerrie Cobb was an aviation pioneer and the first woman to fly in the Paris Air Show. She was also one of the little known Mercury 13 women trainees who passed the same tests as the Mercury 7 men did, but weren't allowed to fly a spacecraft.
    • The Mercury 7 Wives were the longsuffering spouses of the first seven astronauts picked to fly spacecraft. They were unprepared for the intense publicity, but handled it just fine.
    • Eilene Galloway was the first space lawyer, so to speak. You'll have to read the book to find out what that's all about!
    • Mary Jackson you may recall if you saw the movie Hidden Figures - whi9ch was of course, Hollywood style, overly dramatic compared with the real story which I reviewed a while ago on this blog.
    • Dee O'Hara was a nurse to the astronauts, involved in their care and medical education, and went on to even greater things, such as setting up the Flight Medicine Clinic at the Johnson Space Center
    • Katherine Johnson was also featured in Hidden Figures and was responsible for figuring launch windows and spacecraft trajectories, including emergency return paths.
    • Margaret Hamilton was the director of the Software Engineering Division at the MIT lab which developed the on-board flight software for the Apollo spacecraft.
    • The Waltham "Little Old Ladies" wove the software for the Apollo guidance computer - literally. The copper strands were hand-woven to pass information as a series of ones and zeroes into the computer and were designed this way to be ultra-reliable.
    • Poppy Northcutt was an engineer on the Apollo space program.
    • Rita Rapp worked on a critical aspect of the Apollo program in developing food that could be eaten - and was appetizing and nutritious, for the astronauts, which was a lot harder than you might think, especially with crumbs not being welcome floating around in a spacecraft!
    • Dottie Lee was another 'human computer' who worked on math calculations for the space program. When she retired it took ten men to replace her. She was responsible for the heat shield design for returning spacecraft, which is now also being employed on the new Orion spacecraft.
    • "The ILC Seamstresses" helped outfit the Apollo astronauts, including the ones who walked on the Moon. I also review a children's book about this same topic on this blog in Papa Put a Man on the Moon by Kristy Dempsey and Sarah Green
  • Space Stations and Shuttles
    • Sally Ride was the first American woman and the youngest American astronaut into space, and she survived Challenger twice before it exploded when she wasn't on it.
    • Svetlana Savitskaya was in the second group of Russian cosmonauts selected and the first woman to walk in space, probably an activity prompted by the USA's announcement that Kathy Sullivan was soon scheduled to do the same thing.
    • Nichelle Nichols - actor in the original Star Trek series and inspiration to many women, particularly those of color.
    • Christa McAuliffe and Judy Resnik both died in the appalling and inexcusable Challenger explosion. I'm not sure that being the first women to die in space is really a milestone, but it's something.
    • Mae Jemison was the first African-American woman into space (Guy Bluford was the first African-American man almost a decade earlier) and she went on afterwards to found the 100 Year Starship organization (I didn't know it had been lost!).
    • Helen Sharman was the first British astronaut in space and the first woman to visit the Russian Mir space station. Yeay Britain! Sends a woman up first!
    • Eileen Collins is a (now retired) USAF colonel who piloted the shuttle Discovery in its docking with the Mir. She was also the first female commander of a US Spacecraft.
    • Chiaki Mukai was the first Japanese woman in space.
    • Claudie Haigneré was one of the first seven French astronauts and the only woman - one woman out of ten thousand candidates with very few females included - who was the first French woman to fly in space.
    • Patricia Cowings was the first African-American woman scientist to be trained as an astronaut, but never went into space. She spent her time in research into physiology, and she trained people in the voluntary control of physiological responses which helped astronauts cope with weightlessness and motion sickness.
    • Irene Long was the first female chief medical officer at the Kennedy Space Center.
  • Living and Working in Space
    • Peggy Whitson has the distinction of being the oldest female astronaut to fly in space and is also the holder of the most EVA time for a female astronaut. Having spent some 665 days in space, she's also done the equivalent of a trip to Mars and back - although not all in one go! At her retirement at the end of her last trip, she was the most experienced US astronaut - spending more time in space than any other American.
    • Julie Robinson is the Chief Scientist of the International Space Station and founder of the ISS Program Science Forum.
    • Suni Williams is an officer of the US Navy and I believe the first astronaut to have a haircut in space, donating her pony tail to Locks of Love, but maybe not given how long other astronauts have spent aboard various spacecraft and the ISS. I have no information about hair grooming in space! She is definitely the first person to run a marathon in space!
    • Jeanne Lee Crews was the first waste disposal engineer in the space program - in the sense of designing a shield to protect the ISS from space garbage of which there is an endless amount after fifty years of space flights.
    • Kalpana Chawla was the first Indian woman to fly in space, and Laurel Clark was a Captain in the USN, and a doctor. They died together in the inexplicable Columbia disaster. The US has killed more astronauts in space than any other nation: 14 in just two shuttle flights, plus three on the ground in the Apollo 1 fire.

The last section is The Future of Space and looks at what's coming and who's helping to usher it in. I commend this book as a worthy read for boys and girls.

The Map Challenge by Tracy Packiam Alloway, Ana Sanfelippo

Rating: WORTHY!

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

This is a short, colorful, useful, and educational young children's book to open up discussion about dyslexic children.

Sammy is off to scout camp, but their first game when they get there is to follow a map and discover the flag, safely returning with it to the scout camp! Sammy, who is dyslexic, is chosen to be the map reader and he can't do it! After accidentally sending them in the wrong direction a couple of times, someone takes over the map chore, and Sammy is left to observe everything along the way. When the map is lost later, he is able to navigate back home by using the visual cues he absorbed on the journey out.

The book takes a sweet and simple approach, laying out playful issues and problems, with nothing too overwhelming. The children show a positive attitude and do not mock Sammy, and everything turns out well in the end because of Sammy's excellent visual memory which enables him to use his own personal set of 'signposts' to get them safely home. In the back of the book are tips for both parents (presumably including guardians and older family members) and teachers on dyslexia-related problems, along with discussion points about the story, and even tips for boosting memory skills - and when I say the first one is for the birds - I don't mean it's a bad tip!

As this book points out (and at least one study has confirmed: Enhanced Recognition Memory after Incidental Encoding in Children with Developmental Dyslexia Hedenius M, Ullman MT, Alm P, Jennische M, Persson J (2013) PLoS ONE) dyslexic children tend to have better memory for recalling things they have seen than do non-dyslexic children. Tracy Packiam Alloway is a psychologist with a PhD-level education, and Ana Sanfelippo is a talented Argentinian artist with a degree in graphic design. I congratulate them and commend this book as a worthy read.

Sunday, June 23, 2019

The Big Book of Twisted Fairy Tales by Sue Nicholson

Rating: WORTHY!

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

Personally I think 'twisted' is a misnomer for a quartet of stories about honesty, kindness, responsibility, and teamwork, but it wasn't my choice! Rest assured that the stories are only twisted in the sense that they're changed and updated in relation to the originals.

Cinderella, whose original story revolved around a shoe fetish, loves dancing of course, but what's she to do when everyone except for her seems to be getting new shoes for the newly-opening dance school? Cindy puts her best foot forward however. This story is aimed at teaching about generosity and kindness. Unlike Cinderella, Beauty has her wish granted, and is given a pony which she names Flick, but (and here actually is a twist!), the beast isn't the animal, it's Beauty! She neglects her charge and the horse charges away! Will her parents have to pony-up for a new ride, or will beauty become more stable? This story aims to teach responsibility.

One of the fun things about these stories is how the characters each appear in the stories of the others. They not only exist in the same world, they live in the same town! One of those other characters is Jack who, like two beans in a pod, is just as irresponsible as Beauty, and who ends up destroying the family's crop. This story is about honesty, though. Will Jack fess up and will mommie bean him for his behavior? Last, but not least, is Snow White, who unaccountably isn't white in this story, so "yeay!" for diversity, but "huh?" for logic. Snow's problem doesn't exactly dwarf the others, but it is serious. She's one of the best soccer players, yet she's paradoxically not a team player! Will she also learn her lesson or will there be a penalty for her behavior?!

I liked these stories and commend them as a worthy read for young children, offering useful lessons.