Friday, July 29, 2011

a nature-heavy post.

with vampires on the side.
Wicked Bugs: The Louse that Conquered Napoleon's Army and Other Diabolical Insects, by Amy Stewart; illustrated by Briony Morrow-Cribbs.  (632.7)  The entries seemed short (probably they were edited to fit the pages, which were pretty small).  More scientific detail would have been nice, but the historical relevance was good.  I can't say I liked the sketches included with the entries, but they didn't make me squirm quite as much as photos have done.

Ascendant, by Diana Peterfreund.    (read this on the nook.  thanks, Overdrive!) I have mixed feelings.  I love that this explores an unloved and ignored part of mythology and the paranormal.  But I feel rushed while I'm reading, like things are skipped over but if we run fast enough, the reader won't notice.  Maybe that's just me.  More?

Rage, by Jackie Morse Kessler.    I was worried that these would be formulaic, but they don't feel that way.  Both characters (in this and in Hunger), go through the same realizations, processes, emotions, and, in both cases, the ending was a little twee and oversimplified but not a total downer.  Certainly an interesting take on the problem novel and worth having in high school libraries and upper YA sections.

Remembering Smell: A Memoir of Losing-- and Discovering-- the Primal Sense, by Bonnie Blodgett.  (616.856).  This wasn't quite what I was expecting or hoping for.  The big drawback of this book is that the author repeats herself.  Constantly.  Not right in a row, but a pertinent fact from a study will be regurgitated a few chapters later, and that happens multiple times.
The book is really just a really long research paper, summarizing the recent science and published articles on the topic.  I'm sure it would be helpful and interesting to people with the condition, but it wasn't a very good story or terribly well written.  I'd skip it, if I were you.

The Goats, by Brock Cole.    I saw this title mentioned several times in a journal recently (I think an author/editor asked a bunch of librarians which book they thought had been passed over or deserved more recognition, and several of them chose this book).  And this should get a lot more recognition, I have to agree, even if it is a little old (87?).  There isn't much in the book that really dates it-- not a lot of slang or styles; probably the only thing is that the kids don't have cell phones and spend a bunch of time and energy trying to find a pay phone.  This brings up a ton of topics for thinking or general discussion; teachers and parents should definitely take a look at this.

On a recent short trip, we visited the Botanical Conservatory and brought home two little cacti to add to our plant collection.  I have no idea how to re-pot or really properly care for them, so I checked out our cactus books at the library:
Cactus: The Most Beautiful Varieties and How to Keep Them Healthy, by Elisabeth Manke.  Extremely lovely color photos make the book worth having, but it is nearly unreadable.  From page 11: "They have ribs that are more or less chacteristic of the habit and in many cases are modified into tubercles or warts typical of a genus.  In some genera the growing points, the axils, from which the flowers arise, lie at the base."  I could understand the book if I read it slowly in a quiet room (good luck!), but it seems pretty thick for what should be a simple topic.
The Plantfinder's Guide to Cacti and Other Succulents, by Keith Grantham and Paul Klaassen, was also very academic-sounding, as if the authors were trying to add gravity to the field.  Nope!
The Complete Book of Cacti and Succulents: The Definitive Practical Guide to Cultivation, Propagation, and Display, by Terry Hewitt, is the way to go.  It kind of has a DK Eyewitness set-up and feel, but is very readable and informative.

Another comparative group:  my boys were fascinated with the terrarium full of carnivorous plants at the conservatory and my husband wanted to bring home a Venus flytrap, a concept that fascinated our 3-year-old.  In quiet moments over the next few days, he would randomly ask, "If I accidentally put my finger in the plant, will it bite it off?" and that sort of thing, so he was a little worried by the idea of carnivorous plants, even though we don't have one in the house.  I flipped through these books from the Juvenile section:
Plants that Eat Animals, by Allan Fowler.  Very nice, quick and short, informative.  It's a very small book (less than 8.5x11); I think a bigger book with a nice wide margin would be more visually pleasing on the text-only pages and would have allowed for even bigger color photos on opposite pages.  This is the book I took home and we read it five times.
Venus Flytraps, by Kathleen V. Kudlinski; photographs by Jerome Wexler.  For an older (self-reading) audience, but not formatted for reports and school work.
Carnivorous Plants, by Elaine Pascoe; photographs by Dwight Kuhn.  Mostly like the Kudlinksi title, but includes a chapter on planting and caring for the plants.
Plants of Prey, by Densey Clyne.  Larger text, report-friendly graph and a nice glossary, but pretty much the same.
also, V is for Venus Flytrap: A Plant Alphabet, by Eugene Gagliano; illustrated by Elizabeth Traynor.  Actually, "V is for Vegetables// growing int he sun,// eat them fresh or cooked,// enjoy them everyone." "Carnivorous for letter C,// the insect-eating kind,// plants that are unusual // and sometimes hard to find."  The text is very clunky-- always [word] begins with [letter] or [letter] is for [word], with no variation.  Informational side bars are on every page, very factual, very upper-level material, which we skipped but could be very helpful for older readers.

I Shall Wear Midnight, by Terry Pratchett.    I couldn't remember what happened!  I was thinking about this book and trying to remember and couldn't, so I downloaded it to my nook.
This book illustrates one of the nook's problems-- it's not very good at non-blocked text.  In this case, the author likes to use little footnotes to add to the story, and they appear at the bottom of the relevant pages.  However, the nook put the footnotes at the end of the book.  I didn't know how to easily jump back and forth, so I just went without.

Dead Reckoning, by Charlaine Harris.  It's like a train wreck-- I can't look away.  (also read this on the nook.)  Although the death threats are resolved by the end of each book, relationship hurdles are well ignored, which is probably why there's so little character development.  Can someone help me overcome my addiction to series?  I so want to stop when they are this bad.


Ms. Yingling said...

cannot get anyone to read The Goats. Bad cover? I've tried, but I've been close to deaccessioning this one.

sarah said...

the cover was not very inviting-- it's totally heavy-reading-from-1985. maybe you could do a program/challenge where you take terribly-covered books, cover them in newspaper or plain brown packing paper, and then kids can design their own cover. i've heard that's had success in some places. i didn't check the circ stats on our copy-- it is in the juv. section, which might make a difference. i definitely can't image it checking out frequently from the ya room. but i think i will booktalk it to 6th grade in the fall.