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Chilly Milly Moo by Fiona Ross

Pied Piper Pics - Wed, 2015-02-04 01:01

Milly Moo is a cow who lives on a large farm in the hot sun and she only wants one thing: to give the tastiest, creamiest milk; but she cannot. Milly Moo is really sad because it is so hot and when the farmer goes to milk Milly Moo, there is something wrong. Milly Moo cannot produce any milk at all! “You can’t stay here if you can’t make milk,” says the farmer. Milly Moo is ashamed as the other cows boast about their milk. Later that night Milly Moo dreams about what would happen to her if she could not stay at the farm. As she wakes from what seems to be a nightmare, she can feel that it is getting colder outside as a storm goes through. The following morning, it is freezing cold and the other cows are miserable! In contrast, Milly Moo thinks it is the most perfect weather ever! “This is your last chance, Milly Moo,” the farmer says. At first, the farmer tries and tries, but nothing happens. Then suddenly there is a huge explosion; but not the type of explosion anyone (or cow) could have imagined! It is the frostiest, chilliest ice cream and the farmer is thrilled! “I never thought a cow could do that!” he says. After that all of the other cows are so jealous, because they cannot make ice cream like Milly Moo. “Don’t be misery moos,” says Milly Moo, “We’re all special!”

The illustrations in this story are funny and can make any reader laugh! This book is recommended for all cow and ice cream lovers.

Check the WRL catalog for Chilly Milly Moo.


Categories: Pied Piper Pics

Toys, by James Patterson and Neil McMahon

Blogging for a Good Book - Wed, 2015-02-04 01:01

Confession: I am not a fan of James Patterson (though not a detractor).
Confession: l have tired of the slew of half-baked bandwagon dystopian fiction that has flooded the market in the past few years, following the success of several well-done iterations, especially in Young Adult fiction (blasphemy, I know!).
However – being a contrarian at heart, I had to pick up Toys, by James Patterson and Neil McMahon, after hearing someone despise it as both unlike typical Patterson, and a dystopian fiction!

Set in a not-too far-future United States, the country is run by Elites – synthetically incubated human beings with genetic upgrades that produce superior intelligence, physical ability, and looks – charged with the responsibility of protecting the flawed and warring human race from themselves. (Remind anyone of Asimov’s first of the Robot Laws?) The human race has not been difficult to run, however, as the majority not in poverty are lulled into a humming submission by the consumption of “toys” – a panoply of gadgets, devices, virtual diversions, and recreational drugs.

Elite government agents Hays Baker and his wife are among the top U.S. agents in the President’s stable combatting human crimes and enforcing Elite law. When a massacre of top executives of the Toyz company calls for Hays and Lizbeth to intervene, Hays is hospitalized and wakes to find himself excommunicated to the other side of a global conflict between a gang of revolutionary humans, and an Elite plan to extinguish the human race.

This book was a ton of fun, without being silly; think a less moody, fun, mildly sexy Blade Runner. It considered the dystopian questions of the division of the have and have-nots by technology, the hypnotism of society by mind-numbing entertainment, and the threat of creeping totalitarian government, but with sharp, snarling characters, and slick action scenes. This book is equal parts interesting and amusing; it’s neither fluff nor overly philosophical, nor too high a Sci-Fi. In summer blockbuster terms, this is the I, Robot (with Will Smith) or Judge Dredd rather than the Minority Report or Truffaut’s Farenheit 451.

I recommend Toys for young adults who enjoy action and espionage reads, as well as pop Sci-Fi fans. I give the audiobook bonus points for White Collar’s Matt Bomer’s great speaking performance.

Check the WRL catalog for Toys


Althea & Oliver, by Cristina Moracho

Blogging for a Good Book - Tue, 2015-02-03 01:01

A premise that I repeatedly turn to for a good read is that of the atypical or unexpected friendship. Sometimes that is simply the unlikely friendship (Notes from the Dog, Eleanor and Park), or means quirky outsiders who become friends (Stoner and Spaz, The Fault in Our Stars), and is expanded upon as the scarred heroes who heal through a new friendship (A Long Way Down). Althea & Oliver explores this premise somewhat in reverse.

Althea and Oliver grew up together as neighbors since the age of six, she without a mother, he without a father, she impulsive, and he controlled, she starting adventures, he keeping her out of trouble, both as inseparable as a loyal brother and sister. As their senior year in high school looms, Oliver begins to suffer from a rare sleeping disorder at the same time Althea starts to develop complicated feelings about Oliver and their friendship – ultimately clashing in a conflict between the two that threatens to end their friendship. In the middle of this discord, Oliver pursues a solution in the form of a sleep study and treatment in New York City, without telling Althea. Ever a fighter, Althea packs her beat-up car and sets out from their North Carolina hometown to find Oliver and try to remedy their relationship. This separation for the first time they can remember is where debut author Moracho explores possibilities of the individuality for these young adults, adding a different perspective to the teen friendship story – and exploring the benefits and losses of separation, rather than of coming together.

Although the story is a bit slow-moving, the teen worlds of both their hometown and New York come alive, with realistic characters and environments – almost characters themselves – whether it’s the neighborhood they live in, the halls of their school, a house party, or a hospital ward of teens. The characters are real, varied, messy, smart, and sometimes raw, giving the personalities of young people the more complicated treatment which they are due but don’t always get in popular young adult fiction. Some book summaries and reviews dwell on the placement of this story during the 90’s punk scene, and draw attention to Althea as the artist and Oliver the academic, but these aspects of the story seem peripheral in comparison to the characters, place, and exploration of the conflict of the book, which are very well done; perhaps these aspects were highlighted in an attempt to “sell” the more messy and complex whole that is the fully-realized story. I give kudos to this author for resolving one version of a more complicated stage of the friendship arc and the teasing out the gray areas between friendship and individuality.

I recommend this book for fans of Eleanor and Park, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, and Paper Towns.

Check the WRL catalog for Althea & Oliver


The Little Red Hen (Makes a Pizza) by Philemon Sturges, illus. by Amy Walrod

Pied Piper Pics - Mon, 2015-02-02 01:01

 The Little Red Hen (Makes a Pizza) is a comical story about a hardworking hen making a pizza and all the struggles she endures. It begins when the Little Red Hen wakes up from her nap and realizes that she is hungry and spies a can of tomato soup in her cupboard. The Little Red Hen decides she wants to make a pizza. First, she must find a pan; but she does not have a pan large enough to fit a whole pizza. So she calls out to her friends, Duck, Dog, and Cat, to ask if they have a pan for her to use and they all reply “Not I.” The Little Red Hen goes to the store to pick up some necessities for her pizza and once she gets back home she reopens her cupboard to see she does not have any flour to make the dough! “Cluck,” she said. “I need flour.” The Little Red Hen then calls out to her friends again to see who will go to the store with her and all of them respond once again with “Not I.” So she goes to the supermarket once again to come home to find that she does not have any mozzarella! She asks if any of her friends would like to go to the supermarket for her to buy her some mozzarella and they all refuse. The Little Red Hen finally comes home from the supermarket for good, and none of her friends wish to help her make the pizza dough and the toppings. Then, the Little Red Hen finishes the pizza and asks her friends, “Would anybody like some pizza?” and of course they respond “YES!” Once they are all finished and have their bellies full, the Little Red Hen asks Duck, Dog, and Cat, “Who will help me do the dishes?” They each respond, “I will.” “I will.” “I will.” And so, they do.

This story contains strikingly colorful illustrations along with realistic images. It teaches a great lesson of fairness and respect and will make any reader hungry for more! (Pizza, of course.)

Check the WRL catalog for The Little Red Hen (Makes a Pizza).


Categories: Pied Piper Pics

The Oracle Glass, by Judith Merkle Riley

Blogging for a Good Book - Mon, 2015-02-02 01:01

I knew that Judith Merkle Riley wrote historical fiction with strong female characters and a hint of the occult. These qualities put her on my “to be read” list. But that she had written a novel about “The Affair of the Poisons,” a macabre scandal from the age of Louis XIV, put her on the “move aside, all other books, I must read this immediately” list. What this says about me, I leave to the speculation of the reader.

Geneviève Pasquier, a serious young gentlewoman of the 1600s, isn’t a likely candidate to become a seer. She prefers reading Descartes and the Roman stoics to brewing love potions or telling fortunes. But when an assault forces her from her dysfunctional family home, she is adopted into a shady network of crystal gazers and amateur pharmacists who make their living on the fringes of respectable Paris.

Young Geneviève reinvents herself as the Marquise de Morville, a supposedly-150-year-old widow who stomps about Paris crankily lamenting the good old days of Henri IV and reading her customers’ futures in a basin of water. She refers customers to her colleagues for love spells, beauty elixirs, and other, less savory services–pins in a wax doll, a black mass, or a discreet abortion. Business is good, but her mentor, a Donna Corleone known to history as La Voisin, has ambitions that carry her protégé into dangerous circles, among the cutthroat “gilded wolves” of Versailles and the would-be mistresses of the king.

Geneviève’s visions of the future are the only paranormal aspect to a historical fantasy that is otherwise chockablock with historical detail. Riley is the kind of writer who never refers generically to a “carriage” when she can refer specifically to a sedan chair, a fiacre, or a vinaigrette. While many of the characters are historical, the secondary, fictional characters are equally entertaining. Pages from the ending I was already writing in my head the further adventures of Sophie, the ladies’ maid who conveniently becomes “possessed” by one of the ranking powers of Hell when she doesn’t feel like doing the chores (“Astaroth didn’t like dusting because he refused to bend over”).

This was a great blend of chills, history, and even some romance. For another entertaining police caper in old Paris, you could try Louis Bayard’s The Black Tower. If you’re more interested in history than fiction, don’t miss Anne Somerset’s scholarly-but-dishy The Affair of the Poisonswhich covers this episode specifically, or The Poisoner’s Handbookwhich covers poisoners and their “inheritance powders” in general.

Check the WRL catalog for The Oracle Glass


Knock, Knock: My Dad’s Dream for Me by Daniel Beaty, illus. by Bryan Collier

Pied Piper Pics - Fri, 2015-01-30 01:01

This heart wrenching Coretta Scott King Award winner can help young children who are trying to cope with absent fathers. The main character and his father like to play a Knock Knock Game where the boy pretends to sleep through his father’s knocking but then jumps up and tells him good morning and that he loves him. One day, the boy’s father vanishes, and the boy is left confused and saddened. Eventually, the boy leaves his father a letter asking him to come home. After two long months, the boy receives the father’s heartfelt reply. Beaty writes, “’For every lesson I will not be there to teach you, hear these words: […] Knock Knock down the doors that I could not. Knock Knock to open new doors to your dreams. Knock Knock for me, for as long as you become your best, the best of me still lives in you.”

Though the father doesn’t return, the boy grows into a successful young man with a family of his own.

The Author’s Note at the end explains that Beaty’s father was incarcerated when Beaty was a young boy and that growing up without his father at home had a profound effect on his life. He is now an educator and has seen the same thing happen to many of his students. The illustrations are brilliant and moving. The illustrator first heard the book performed as a monologue by Beaty.

Check the WRL catalog for Knock, Knock: My Dad’s Dream for Me.


Categories: Pied Piper Pics

Mega Disasters

Blogging for a Good Book - Fri, 2015-01-30 01:01

If an asteroid hit the earth it would be bad news for all of us; that much is obvious. But what exactly would happen? Mega Disasters features ten episodes describing unimaginable catastrophes such as an F5 tornado hitting Chicago, a major eruption of Mt. Rainier onto Seattle or a huge earthquake hitting Los Angeles. It uses evidence from past cataclysms and tells the story with real disaster film footage. Expect lots of experts predicting doom and tons of (slightly cheesy) computer graphics.

Sometimes I feel like being completely awed by nature. This week I have talked about some of the smallest things (Molecules), some of the Oldest Living Things, and some of the cutest birds (Penguins and Chickens). But sometimes to fully appreciate these lovely things I have to imagine the most catastrophic. Many of this week’s science books are much more useful and appealing because they are visual. To get the full effect of a volcanic eruption (and not actually stand on an active geologic zone and risk pyroclastic flows and lava), I don’t think you can beat sound and action. Boom! Crash! Sizzle! Whoosh! Grab your popcorn, it’s time for a disaster movie!

Some of these mega disasters have happened before, such as the asteroid impact that wiped out the dinosaurs millions of years ago, or a Yellowstone eruption that buried the entire Midwest in feet of ash, but these happened long before humans or human civilization were around. The effects on us today would be enormous and perhaps not predictable, but in true History Channel style, Mega Disasters tries to predict. It shows the familiar high-rise buildings of Chicago and then shows computer-animated effects of wrenching winds with flying glass and debris. The creators of the series based their predictions on current expertise and up-to-date knowledge. They interviewed many geologists, meteorologists, astronomers and other scientists. Most of the scientists appear to be unflappable people, so when they dryly state things like, “This entire area would be devastated with nothing left alive,” you know it’s time to sit up and take notice.

My favorite episode is Yellowstone Eruption, because I am spellbound by supervolcanoes that could potentially kill most life on earth, as ably described in the teen novel Ashfall by Mike Mullin. Other good book tie-ins include nonfiction on the worldwide effects of a much smaller eruption, like Tambora, by Gillen D’Arcy Wood.

Mega Disasters will also interest viewers who like fictional disaster movies like The Day After Tomorrow or 2012. And if you think this is a silly topic and you are ever feeling too complacent, just remember this quote attributed to Will Durant, “Civilization exists by geological consent, subject to change without notice.”

Check the WRL catalog for Mega Disasters.


Love? Maybe, by Heather Hepler

Read This! - Fri, 2015-01-30 01:01

Jennifer D. shares this review:

If your birthday is also Valentine’s Day, you probably either love all things hearts and flowers, or hate every pink and red bit of it. The fact that Piper’s birthday falls on Valentine’s Day means that she typically receives many heart-themed birthday gifts each year, but does not mean she believes in love. This year though, her best friends Claire and Jillian are determined that the three of them will not be alone on the most romantic day of the year. They devise “The Plan.” Some of “The Plan” involves things you might expect, such as hair highlights and new makeup techniques. Then the girls take things one step further.

When she’s not at school, Piper works at Jan the Candy Man, a candy store known for its creative confections. Piper, Claire, and Jillian borrow the kitchen one evening to make a new, special type of chocolate. A chocolate that incorporates the recipe Jillian found for a love potion. When the girls’ crushes start to notice them after eating the chocolates they are sure it’s coincidence—right?

Reading Love? Maybe is like watching a fun romantic comedy. You begin to root for the main characters in their struggle to find love. The subplots are also entertaining and even secondary characters have personality. Even Valentine’s haters will find something to love in this one.

Check the WRL catalog for Love? Maybe.

 

 


Categories: Read This

Why Did the Chicken Cross the World?: The Epic Saga of the Bird that Powers Civilization, by Andrew Lawler

Blogging for a Good Book - Thu, 2015-01-29 01:01

The title of this book poses an interesting question: why do chickens occur all over the world, and have for a long time? The short answer is that people took them around the globe because they are useful and noble birds.

Penguins (which I blogged about yesterday) are relatively rare birds and are considered cute, while chickens are so ubiquitous as to be thought boring. Andrew Lawler has done a great job of convincing me that chickens are not in the least bit boring, and hopefully the photo below of Henny Penny and Co. (wondering if my iPad is edible) will convince you that they are cute. Readable, surprising and captivating, this book will make you want to immerse yourself to find out more about this fascinating bird of contradictions.

Why Did the Chicken Cross the World? is dense with facts, including many surprising ones such as that there are more chickens in the world than cats, dogs and rats put together, in fact, so many chickens that they outnumber people. Andrew Lawler argues that chickens are far more useful and important to human history than they are generally given credit for. They have been significant for religions from Zoroastrianism to Christianity for thousands of years and, because of the rooster’s habit of crowing just before dawn, they have frequently been seen as symbols of light and resurrection. As small animals that will eat scraps, they have always been economically important to poor or marginalized populations such as American slaves. They are important to medicine and scientific research in areas from growing vaccines to chick embryo development.

The chicken’s own history is somewhat murky. They are almost certainly descended from Asian Jungle Fowl (probably Red), but whether it was once or multiple times, and exactly where, is still controversial. We know why the chicken crossed the world, but how is not as clear, because chickens are small animals with tiny, easily eaten, scattered or rotted bones. Archaeological evidence of chickens is scarce, but it does suggest that Polynesians took chickens on their remarkable Pacific voyages, and that Tandoori Chicken recipes may have been invented in Indus Valley civilizations around 5000 years ago!  For local history buffs, in 1752 the College of William and Mary banned their students from attending cockfights, but that didn’t stop George Washington attending one in nearby Yorktown!

One thing I found missing from this book was illustrations. When the author talked about the Red Jungle Fowl or Queen Victoria’s many exotic breeds, I wanted to see what they looked like, so I used a copy of Storey’s Illustrated Guide to Poultry Breeds by Carol Ekarius with its great illustrations.

This book will appeal to readers who are interested in the intersection between humans and animals such as  Some We Love, Some We Hate, Some We Eat, by Hal Herzog, or the effects of animals on human history like Spillover, by David Quammen.

Check the WRL catalog for Why Did the Chicken Cross the World.


Penguins: The Ultimate Guide, by Tui De Roy, Mark Jones and Julie Cornthwaite

Blogging for a Good Book - Wed, 2015-01-28 01:01

As the title says, Penguins: The Ultimate Guide is a guide book, but here in Williamsburg we are very unlikely to see a penguin landing on our bird feeder and pushing off the chickadees, so today’s book isn’t needed for immediate avian I.D. but is more for browsing, learning about these fascinating birds, and enjoying the dazzling photographs. Editors and publishers like to use superlatives to sell their books, but even without exaggeration, The Ultimate Guide lives up to its Ultimate hype!

Penguins are remarkable birds that also happen to be very cute. Author Tui De Roy grew up in the Galapagos Islands and has a long acquaintance with penguins and says they have an “exuberant gusto.” The book is arranged in three main sections headed by the three main authors who between them clocked up fifteen years of study and travel in the book’s creation. The first section, by Tui De Roy, goes over penguins’ general biology and occurrence; the second section, introduced by Mark Jones, includes double-page spreads by seventeen separate authors who are scientists, researchers and experts in their fields, with up-to-the-minute information such as “Beyond Prying Eyes: Tracking Penguins at Sea” by scientist Rory P. Wilson.

The last section, “Species Natural History,” is what you would expect from a guide book. It goes through the different species with common names, scientific names, physical appearance, distribution, breeding, conservation status, and so on. This section includes smaller close-up photos of individual and small groups of penguins to make positive identification. These contrast with many of the earlier photos that are often breathtaking landscapes with penguins.

Penguins: The Ultimate Guide has everything you need to know about penguins and plenty you didn’t realize you needed to know. If you consider yourself an amateur (or professional!) ornithologist, read it alongside Sibley’s Birding Basics, by David Allen Sibley. Near Williamsburg Regional Library you are not going to see penguins, but you can always dream…

For travel buffs the book takes you to some out-of-the way locales that time seems to have forgotten, such as Subantarctic Campbell Island, in the empty ocean south of New Zealand. It brings home to me how lucky I am to have been hiking in New Zealand’s mossy and ferny Fiordland, a place about which Tui De Roy says; “there are few places on earth that feel more primeval and mysterious… Based on fossil evidence, this forest has changed little from the time it was still a part of the supercontinent Gondwana 80 million years ago and dinosaurs roamed in its glades.”

Penguins: The Ultimate Guide is worth reading even if you have read Penguins of the World by Wayne Lynch from 2007, as Penguins: The Ultimate Guide is larger, more in-depth, and more up-to-date.

Visual enough for children to enjoy perusing, break it out for fans of Happy Feet or the murderous penguins of Madagascar. For an overload of nonfiction cuteness, pair it with March of the Penguinsand I challenge you to view either without going “Awwww….”

Check the WRL catalog for Penguins: The Ultimate Guide.


The Daily Comet: Boy Saves Earth from Giant Octopus by Frank Asch, illus. by Devin Asch

Pied Piper Pics - Wed, 2015-01-28 01:01

This book written by a father and son about a father and son takes “Go to Work with a Parent Day” to new extremes. Hayward’s dad, who looks startlingly like Gregory Peck, works for a tabloid, and Hayward believes that all of his father’s wild tales are false. Hayward’s skeptical nature is tested throughout the day: a dinosaur egg hatches at the Museum of Natural History, Big Foot is their taxi driver, and a giant chicken attacks a hot dog vendor. Hayward finally can’t explain away a huge metal octopus that begins attacking the city after landing in a flying tea cup, but can he save the day? Even if he does, will his classmates believe him?

The illustrations in this book steal the show with cameos by Elvis and the Queen. The text appears as though it is ripped from the headlines. This silly story will win over the most skeptical readers in your household.

Check the WRL catalog for The Daily Comet: Boy Saves Earth from Giant Octopus.


Categories: Pied Piper Pics

Heart Transplant, by Andrew Vachss and Frank Caruso

Read This! - Wed, 2015-01-28 01:01

Laura shares this review:

Heart Transplant is a story about bullying that is both engrossing and heartwarming. In the opening narration, a kid named Sean takes down the movie clichés about high school life, where outsiders are able to rise above their social position when the popular kids realize they are a beautiful swan instead of an ugly duckling, or the beautiful girl learns about how great the nerd is on the inside and rejects her jock boyfriend. Sean is an outsider, and as such he is ignored by the more popular kids unless it is convenient for them to notice him. “The only time anyone ever saw us was when they needed someone to make themselves look big. By making us small.”

Sean is from a terrible, broken home. His mother has had a steady stream of live-in boyfriends, each of which she has insisted that Sean call “Daddy.” Her latest one, Brian, is vicious when he is drunk, which ends up being most of the time. Sean’s mother offers no protection from her boyfriend’s beatings. When she isn’t otherwise occupied, she takes her swings at Sean too. With no friends and rejected at home, Sean lives a sad existence.

When a drug deal by Brian goes bad, Sean comes home to two bodies. Before a social worker can take him off to a foster home, Brian’s father comes by the house and, seeing the child sitting alone, offers to take Sean in. Pop gives Sean what he has never had before: a home, with unconditional acceptance and protection. Living in a loving and supportive environment for the first time in his life, Sean begins to blossom.

But like many people, Sean begins to have problems in Junior High, despite his high grades. As kids begin to coagulate into social groups, Sean finds he doesn’t really belong anywhere. He’s different, the kind of person who gets rejected by every other group. When Sean gets picked on, everybody laughs. Ashamed to let Pop know what is happening, he tries to hide his bruises, but the old man isn’t so easily fooled. A problem that faces a child is a problem that faces their parent as well, and Pop is going to make sure that Sean has the skills to deal with this, and other challenges in life.

Recommended for young adults, their parents, and readers of graphic novels.

Search the catalog for Heart Transplant.


Categories: Read This

Molecules: The Elements and the Architecture of Everything, by Theodore Gray

Blogging for a Good Book - Tue, 2015-01-27 01:01

Everything is made of something and on a scale that ordinary people (by ordinary people I mean me) can understand everything is made of elements and molecules. Author Theodore Gray has followed the winning formula (pun intended, sorry) of his 2009 book The Elements and has created another visually stunning book that informs, enlightens and fascinates.

There is no simple way to organize all possible molecular combinations, so Molecules is organised into chapters of how people use or perceive molecules, not necessarily how they are chemically related. So there are chapters on how things smell, on painkillers, and on molecules caught up in politics. He covers everyday substances (soap, nylon), controversial substances (mercury in vaccines), and things made of very odd substances. In Gray’s signature quirky style we find a section on “Keratin Extruded by Warm, Fuzzy Animals.” As you’d expect, this includes wool, mohair and feathers, but also includes a pair of socks that were made out of the hair of a Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever! My dog is part husky, so she frequently sheds the equivalent of a small chihuahua per day, so there must be something I can do with all that hair….

Visually stunning is not an exaggeration for this book, and artistically inclined people can enjoy Molecules for the bright, active photographs and chemical structure diagrams that leap off the page from the black background. Artists will also be fascinated to learn about the origins and chemical analyses of historical pigments like burnt sienna, turquoise, and ultramarine. This is one of the occasions when Theodore Gray goes on flights of poesy not often seen in a chemistry book, such as “sienna, which has been the color of the Earth for as long as there has been an Earth and will stay that way until there is no longer an eye to see it nor a soul to hear its name.”

Molecules should be of interest to everyone, because we are all surrounded by these chemicals every day, but it is a must-read for science fans. It is attractive enough for coffee-table browsing and informative enough for supplementary reading in classrooms. It is the next logical step after Theodore Gray’s 2009 The Elements: A Visual Exploration of Every Known Atom in the Universe. Pair both books with Stuff Matters: Exploring the Marvelous Materials that Shape Our Man-Made World, by Mark Miodownik, which is more narrative non-fiction about chemical properties while Molecules is more visual with basic facts.

Check the WRL catalog for Molecules.


Pig on the Titanic: A True Story! by Gary Crew, illus. by Bruce Whatley

Pied Piper Pics - Mon, 2015-01-26 01:01

This beautifully illustrated book tells the true story of Edith Rosenbaum and her musical French pig, Maxixe. Rosenbaum was a fashion designer who was travelling from Paris to New York on board the doomed Titanic. When the ship begins to sink, Rosenbaum goes to the deck to help children into lifeboats. Crew writes, “Everyone was calling for help, especially the children. ‘Where is my mama?’ they cried. ‘Where is my papa?’” A sailor mistook Maxixe wrapped in a blanket as a baby and put the music box into the lifeboat. Rosenbaum hopped in and used the musical pig to comfort and entertain the children in the dark, cold hours on the ocean.

This upbeat book about survival and music is a good way to introduce a tough topic to younger children. The Author’s Note in the end gives many more details than the simple story, including that Maxixe is kept in a private collection in New York today.

Check the WRL catalog for Pig on the Titanic: A True Story!

 


Categories: Pied Piper Pics

The Oldest Living Things in the World, by Rachel Sussman

Blogging for a Good Book - Mon, 2015-01-26 01:01

Several months ago a group of us here at Williamsburg Regional Library presented The Top Five of Five for Non Fiction at the Virginia Library Association Conference. I was assigned science books, and one of the trends I reported on was “Guide Books Plus.” Over the next three days I will be reporting on some science Guide Books that are Plus, Plus, Plus! I think they expand the definition of guide book and that they are superbly readable, informative and visually stunning books. The first one is the loveliest book I have seen for a long time with a quirky and fascinating angle on nature: The Oldest Living Things in the World.

Rachel Sussman spent a decade travelling around the world finding, researching and photographing these enchanting, odd, and sometimes poignant organisms. Everything in the book is over 2000 years old and they go up to tens of thousands of years old. Animals, apart from primitive ones like sponges, simply don’t live that long, so most of the photographs are of plants, but there are also fungi, lichens and coral. Sadly, as the author says, “being old is not the same as being immortal,” so some of the organisms, like Florida’s Senator Cypress tree, are listed as “Deceased.”

Some of these organisms have become so old by using unusual survival techniques, or in everyday language by being very strange, for example the underground forest of southern Africa. The landscape is so dry and devastating fires so common that most of this plant grows underground. The photograph shows reddish desert dirt with an unassuming low-spreading plant with olive green oval leaves—just your average weed, except that the part showing is just the crown peeping through. If a fire rips through, it is only like having your eyebrows singed off and the tree will survive.

This is a large format book (27 x 30 cm according to our catalog) that is worthy to grace any coffee table. The exquisite photographs of varied landscapes from the fjords of Greenland to the rain forest of Eastern Australia to African deserts are dazzling enough to attract the attention of an art photographer, while the text about the organisms is personal and engaging. Rachel Sussman often describes how she heard of some of the more obscure organisms, how she traveled and what adventures she had in all corners of the world. About 3000-year-old Chilean desert plants she says: “Every once in a while you see something so ludicrously beautiful that all you can do is laugh.” Armchair travelers will thrill at seeing some little-visited parts of the world.

This is a great book for readers who like unusual science books with beautiful photographs like The Snowflake, by Kenneth Libbrecht  or quirky guidebooks like The Songs of Insects, by Lang Elliott and Wil Hershberger. And read it if you find yourself ruminating on the brevity of our allotted three-score and ten.

Check the WRL catalog for The Oldest Living Things in the World.


Tuesdays at the Castle, by Jessica Day George

Read This! - Mon, 2015-01-26 01:01

 

Jennifer D. shares this review:

In Tuesdays at the Castle, author Jessica Day George creates a setting that becomes a character.  Castle Glower, identified as “The Castle,” is home to Princess Celie and the rest of the royal family of Sleyne. Living in a castle sounds pretty great, but what makes Castle Glower even better is that it is a magical castle. It will expand to create new rooms, make rooms that are no longer needed disappear, and even provide furnishings, all at its own discretion, of course. And it is a very opinionated castle. If it likes you, your visit to Castle Glower will be most comfortable. If not, your accommodations might look more like the dungeons, or The Castle might kick you out altogether.  Furthermore, The Castle has views on who should rule. King Glower’s heir was chosen not by himself, but by The Castle.

You might think that such defenses would eliminate any concern about a hostile takeover from a rival kingdom, but that is just what happens. Prince Khelsh of Vhervhine, along with his entourage of guards and sycophants, has weaseled his way into the castle under false pretenses. He is determined to take over The Castle and claim the throne. With the rest of her family missing and presumed dead, Princess Celie, her brother Rolf, her sister Lilah, and Castle Glower must work together to mount a defense.  Allegiances are questioned, and the siblings quickly learn that they can trust no one but themselves and The Castle.

I found this story to be very immersive and quickly became lost in the twists and turns of Castle Glower. The setting truly comes to life, and you’ll soon find yourself wondering, “Well, how does The Castle feel about that?” Don’t worry, being concerned for the emotional well-being of supposedly inanimate objects is just a side effect from reading fantasy in general, and Tuesdays at the Castle in particular. This is the first in a series which continues in Wednesdays in the Tower.

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Categories: Read This

My Dinner with André (1981)

Blogging for a Good Book - Fri, 2015-01-23 01:01

My introduction to the film My Dinner with André came from a rather unlikely source – a Mad magazine parody called My Dinner with André the Giant. In the years since its release, My Dinner with André  has inspired numerous tributes and parodies, including a Far Side comic and an episode of the the first season of Frasier called “My Coffee with Niles.” My Dinner with André  is a unique film that I revisit every few years; usually when I’m looking for something insightful, but primarily because the extended conversation at the heart of the film is quite entertaining.

The film stars actor/playwright Wallace Shawn and director/actor André Gregory playing fictionalized versions of themselves. The movie opens with Shawn preparing to meet Gregory at an expensive New York City restaurant. Gregory was an early supporter of Shawn’s work; however, the one-time colleagues have not spoken to each other for years. Shawn is filled with trepidation at the prospect of meeting with Gregory. Over the years, he heard that Gregory had left his successful career as a director and traveled the world in search of spiritual enlightenment. Shawn’s concern is heightened when he hears that a mutual friend ran into Gregory in an obscure part of town, sobbing because he had just seen Ingmar Bergman’s film Autumn Sonata and was moved when Charlotte (Ingrid Bergman) says, “I could always live in my art, but never in my life.”

Despite his concerns, Shawn agrees to have dinner with Gregory, and duration of the film consists of their wide-ranging and deeply philosophical conversation. Gregory begins by describing his artistic and spiritual pursuits after leaving the theatre. He goes to Poland to work with his friend, director Jerzy Grotowski; he travels to Findhorn in Scotland and the Sahara; and finally he stays at photographer Richard Avedon’s estate in Montauk, where he participates in a rebirth ritual in which he’s nearly buried alive.

Shawn is fascinated by Gregory’s stories, but he wonders if such pursuits are practical, especially if you have a wife and family as Gregory does. During the second part of the film, Shawn playfully challenges Gregory’s philosophical outlook and in the process begins to his see the world around him in a new light.

My Dinner with André  is an eloquent and understated film that can be enjoyed on a number of levels. Gregory is an engaging raconteur whose stories are intriguing and often quite amusing. His interaction with Shawn is so relaxed and natural that you feel like you’re eavesdropping on a conversation between two friends who haven’t seen each other in a long time. Director Louis Malle keeps the film moving at a brisk, efficient pace. The restaurant is elegant, but the décor doesn’t overshadow the actors. Interestingly, although the film is set in New York City, the restaurant scenes were actually filmed at the Jefferson Hotel in Richmond.

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The Selection, by Kiera Cass

Read This! - Fri, 2015-01-23 01:01

Noreen shares this review:

America Singer lives in llea, which was once the United States, but now is a country with a caste system, a monarchy, and lots of rebel groups.  Her family is in the third caste, which is not great but is also not terrible.  However, an opportunity to better their lot appears when the Palace sends out a call for The Selection.  Each province can send one young woman to live in the palace and vie for the honor of marrying Prince Maxon Schreave.  Sound familiar?  Yes, it’s the Bachelorette meeting royalty in a dystopian land.  But, you want to keep reading.

America also has a secret.  She is in love with Aspen, the son of a neighbor who is in a lower caste.  They meet secretly at night in a tree house in America’s yard.  Aspen is the sole provider for his family. He is constantly working and is always hungry.  As America’s family keeps pushing her to enter the contest, Aspen seems to be withdrawing, indicating hat he has found another woman. America finally agrees to enter, and, of course, is selected.

The characters were interesting and constantly developing.  Plus the descriptions of everyday life in the castle, including clothes and meals, were wonderful. The relationships among the women vying for the Prince’s hand provide humor and some intrigue.

Equally intriguing is the relationship that develops between America and Prince Maxon.  She is completely up front with the prince about not wanting to win, while admitting that she’d like to stay, if only for the food and clothes.  Prince Maxon is obviously interested.  Enter Aspen who is now a military guard.  America is caught between her feelings for Aspen and the Prince.  How will it end?  We need to wait for the next book.

The Selection ends with us waiting to see who America will choose and how it will work out.  And I do want to know.

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Categories: Read This

How Big Were Dinosaurs? by Lita Judge

Pied Piper Pics - Fri, 2015-01-23 01:01

ROAR! Watch out! It’s a velociraptor! Never fear – did you know that velociraptors were only as big as your family dog? Any budding paleontologist will love this fun take on dinosaurs that tells us a little more about the realities of what they looked like when they lived. Kids will read about comparisons to the modern day that really put these creatures into perspective.

Each page describes one specific dinosaur from the littlest Microraptor to the largest Argentinosaurus and everything in between. Readers will learn about how much they weighed, how big they really were and so much more. There is a great section of this book that tells the reader about the process archeologists use when they find new dinosaur bones and when they preserve them. To add to the wonderful information, there are two fold-out pages that open up to show each of the dinosaurs discussed in the book in comparison to one another and to the other present day animal comparisons. This holistic look at the end of the book ties together each of the previous pages.

Adults and children will enjoy going through this book in individual, small group or large group settings and hearing the reactions from the groups will surely be fun. Grab this book for a wonderful look at these ancient and mysterious animals.

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Categories: Pied Piper Pics

Raise the Red Lantern (1991)

Blogging for a Good Book - Thu, 2015-01-22 01:01

Zhang Yimou’s masterpiece Raise the Red Lantern opens with a young woman preparing to make a fateful decision. In 1920 China, Songlian (Gong Li), a 19-year-old university student, is forced to abandon her studies after her father’s death left the family destitute. With few options available, Songlian tearfully tells her mother that she’s decided to marry a wealthy man. When her mother advises her that as the wife of a rich man she will be little more than a concubine, Songlian stoically replies, “Let me be a concubine. Isn’t that the fate of a woman?” It’s a powerful scene staged with stunning simplicity; Songlian is shown in close-up addressing her mother, who remains off-camera. At end of her speech, tears slowly roll down her cheeks belying sadness and resignation to her fate.

Songlian becomes the fourth wife (or, as she’s referred to throughout the film, the Fourth Mistress) of Master Chen (Ma Jingwu). He lives on a vast estate with three other Mistresses and a cadre of servants. Each Mistress has her own apartment in the compound; however, like birds in a gilded cage, their life of luxury comes at a steep price: their freedom.

At first, Songlian is treated well by the Mistresses and the servants. The first night in the estate, her apartment is festooned with red lanterns, she receives an elaborate foot massage, and Master Chen comes to visit. She soon learns, however, that this treatment is the exception rather than the rule. On a daily basis, the master decides which Mistress he will spend the night with, and the Mistress he selects will choose the menu for the evening, receive the red lanterns and the foot massage, and garner the most attention and respect from the servants. This ritual has fostered an environment of fierce competition, as the Mistresses vie daily for Master Chen’s affections.

As Songlian adjusts to life as Master Chen’s Fourth Mistress, she gets to know the other women on the estate: Yuru (Jin Shuyuan), the First Mistress and the mother of Chen’s son; Zhuoyan (Cao Cuifen), the Second Mistress, described as having the face of the Buddha but the heart of a scorpion; and Meishan (He Saifei), the Third Mistress, a former opera singer. There is also Yan’er (Kong Lin), a longtime servant who dreams of becoming a Mistress herself.

Songlian is savvy enough to understand the peculiar dynamics of the Chen household and implements a few schemes of her own to curry the Master’s favor. Despite her initial success, she soon finds herself double-crossed by one of the Mistresses. When Songlian eventually discovers that another Mistress is involved in an illicit affair, she unwittingly sets into motion a series of events that threaten the fragile structure of the Chen household.

Raise the Red Lantern is a visually stunning film that uses color and cinematography to great effect. The color red is a central motif that connects the key visuals. The red of the lanterns is reflected in the reds of the cheongsams worn by Songlian and the other mistresses. The impressive architecture of Master Chen’s estate is complemented by Yimou’s use of overhead shots. The setting’s beauty stands in stark contrast to the grim fates that await the mistresses. Gong Li, whose films with Yimou include To Live and Shanghai Triad, delivers one of her finest performances as Songlian.

Raise the Red Lantern was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, and, in 2001, Yimou developed a ballet based on the film. In recent years, Yimou has directed a number of popular films, including Hero and House of Flying Daggers. Fans of Yimou’s later films may want to check out Raise the Red Lantern, one of the best films of the 1990s.

Raise the Red Lantern is in Mandarin with English subtitles.

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