Month: January 2012

by D.K. Publishing

This book gets a lot of wear at our house. It is short and sweet, simply showing different animals on each page and inviting the child to feel the different textures. Soft rabbit fur, fuzzy ducklings, smooth calf hide. The page of baby elephants is charming, with a different, bumpy skin texture- although the pieces to feel are kinda small, on their ears. The last page has a baby gorilla and invites tickling- its \”fur\” has longer hair than the rabbit. My baby always likes to tug on the long black fibers. I like to turn the end of the book into a tickling game!

rating: 3/5 …….. 12 pages, 1999

by Anne Morrow Lindbergh

Letters and diary entries by Anne Morrow Lindbergh, spanning her college years up to the time she met and became engaged to Charles Lindbergh. It\’s been a while since I read any diaries, but Danielle has been discussing reading diaries lately, so I thought of this one when looking for my next TBR read. I was curious about it because in college I read quite a few books about Charles Lindbergh (I had to paint a portrait of him) it was quite interesting. Also I\’ve recently read her inspirational book Gift of the Sea. So I was looking forward to this.

Bring Me a Unicorn didn\’t quite wow me, though. I suppose it\’s to be expected that her early diary entries will be unfocused, self-depreciatory, and lack the insights I hoped for. Most of the time I had no idea what people she was talking about, even when little footnotes informed me of their identity it really added nothing for me. Events passed in a blur. Lots of stuff is just alluded to, while she talks mostly about her emotional reactions to them (again, probably typical of a diary but not the best for reading, in my opinion). When she gets to the college years I did enjoy it more, hearing about the difficulties of classes and thrills of reading (her family was big on books). And when Lindbergh himself came into the picture, it was even more interesting to see how her family perceived him, how they came to be on friendly terms, how she experienced the repercussions of his fame, how she fell in love with flying (aviation in its early form seemed pretty frightening, to me!) etc. I liked seeing how her closeness to him developed as a friendship and feeling of being at ease, that\’s how I felt when I met my husband. I kept waiting to come across a passage describing a proposal, but instead she just at one point says Apparently I am going to marry Charles Lindbergh as if there was just no questioning it any longer. It made me laugh because that\’s how it was with me and my husband- we were very very good friends, completely comfortable with each other immediately, and just felt like we belonged together. Don\’t get me wrong, there was romance- and Anne Morrow certainly did plenty of mooning over him- but it wasn\’t mostly romance, it was mostly a strong friendship….

Aside from the relationship and seeing the figure of Lindbergh through her eyes, I also really like her descriptive passages. When she talks about visiting Mexico, travelling through the countryside, simple things like trees in a fog, birds flying over the sea, flowers in a garden, etc. it was so vivid I could see it. Her thrill and depictions of flying and viewing the landscape from up high- such a novel experience in her day- are sharp with excitement and joy.

Anyway, it turns out this is not a book I\’m going to keep. I don\’t love it that much. But I am quite glad I read it. And I do want to read more of her diaries and other writings now.

rating: 3/5 …….. 259 pages, 1971

more opinions at:
Escaping Infinities                anyone else?

by Liesbet Slegers

A short board book for little ones, Sounds is about some everyday noises. Each page starts with the sound, asks What\’s that sound? identifies it, and then gives a little information. The ambulance drives very fast, the vacuum cleaner sucks up dirt, the airplane flies in the sky, etc. Other sounds are a ticking clock, ringing telephone and chirping bird. The pictures are simple and colorful, showing a toddler either looking at or holding the object making the sound. On the last page, the airplane noise is represented with a Rrroarrr! Unfortunately, my airplane roar sounds pretty much like my lion roar so the baby always turns around and looks at me with surprise. Older daughter was listening to us read this book and she suggested a plane sounds more like a big whooosh! or rumble. But I always forget and do the roar anyways. It\’s funny to see the baby look astonished as if she\’s thinking: what are you doing mommy? that\’s the lion noise.

rating: 3/5 ……. 12 pages, 2011

by Rachel Hale

A beautiful little board book, Hugs and Kisses is full of  sweet, soft photos of babies snuggling up to various animal friends. Gentle pastel colors, beautiful baby eyes, wonderful little smiles and of course, the furry companions! Babies cuddle with puppies and kittens, also bunnies, ducks, a half dozen adorable chicks, and a few different kinds of birds. My favorite is of the grinning baby with a green frog on her hat: Here\’s how a froggy hugs! Sometimes the babies look surprised, or shocked- there\’s an adorable picture of a baby and kitten nose-to-nose, both very wide-eyed. Mostly they\’re laughing and smiling. It\’s really cute.  In a few places the text is rather awkward and my tongue stumbles over the repeated furry, fuzzy kissable stuff, but that\’s okay. I thought at first that Rachel Hale was an individual photographer; turns out it\’s a company. Does not diminish my enjoyment of this little book, though.

rating: 4/5 …….. 20 pages, 2012

A Wetlands Year

by David M. Carroll

So far the Burroughs list has been hit or miss for me; out of the three books I\’ve read specifically from the list, one was great, one was just okay and one was blah. This was another fantastic one, though! I\’ve really been taking my time reading it, it\’s the kind of book you have to slow down and just carefully, methodically absorb every page. I don\’t think I ever read more than five or six pages in a sitting.

Swampwalker\’s Journal is full of the writings of a man who likes to walk through all kinds of wetlands. He makes the same rounds every year and keeps a beautiful notebook (sample pages included) recording his observations. Makes the most delicate, wonderful drawings of the plants and animals he finds. Sees how nature is playing itself out, how the habitats shift and change, how the creatures go about their lives. Things like noticing which tree species are overtaking a certain area, at what date the first salamanders emerge in spring to mate, how the water level has changed in a certain pool and what that does to the life around. His particular passion seems to be turtles; he makes notes of every one he finds and rejoices at coming across the same turtle again- usually just once every few years. Most of the book is a description of places. I had no idea what the difference was between a marsh and a swamp before, but there is a particular difference. Also fens and bogs, I though the terms were interchangeable but they\’re not. He also wanders the flood zones of rivers, searches for vernal pools (in many different habitats) and wades across wet meadowlands. He writes so eloquently about these places- it\’s almost like poetry. And such a deep concern for the wildlife. His stance, quite often repeated, is that man would do better to just leave nature alone– even the efforts of various groups to protect or restore threatened areas often do more harm than good (in his opinion).

I really enjoyed reading this book, it opened my eyes to a lot of animal life and places I hardly knew existed, much less wondered about before. It\’s not likely I\’ll ever go wading up to my hips through a swamp to find out myself, so it\’s wonderful to read about someone else\’s forays into these places, especially when its written so beautifully. Upon turning the last page I was immediately eager to find more of Carroll\’s works; this is just one volume of his \”wet-sneaker trilogy.\” I\’m glad to find that his Year of the Turtle is at my library, so I\’ll be reading that one as soon as the dare is over!

rating: 4/5 ……… 292 pages, 1999

more opinions at:
Willowhouse Chronicles
A Good Stopping Point

by Clare Beaton

By far the outstanding thing about this little board book is the illustrations. They\’re made out of fabrics and stitches and little beads all put together in shapes and patterns to make pictures of animals. It\’s just amazing and full of wonderful textures. The story itself describes different attributes of animals in pairs: Antelopes are elegant, elephants are enormous and each phrase ends with But how loud is a lion? you turn the page and find more animals, still wondering about the lion… If you look closely there are signs of the lion among the romping chimpanzees and running gazelle: a tail here, pawprints there, eyes peeking through a bush. You\’re going along with a nice rhythm, meeting familiar hippos and exotic-sounding zorillas when you turn the page and suddenly ROARR!!! (all the animals flee in panic). Then on the very last page is a big happy lion, looking very pleased with himself for having scared everyone, ha ha. My kid always jumps at the roar, it\’s so funny. She\’s not old enough to look for the lion hiding on each page, but it entertains me while I\’m reading for the umpteenth time.

My only little quibble is that where is says Cheetahs are spotty, the animal pictured looks like a leopard, and it\’s reclining in a tree! I know this is an easy mistake- my older daughter\’s school makes it, for example. Their mascot is a jaguar, yet the huge rubber entrance mat features a sprinting cheetah. I\’ve also seen cheetahs on their letterhead! It annoys me a little bit, but oh well.

I do really love this book. I know I saw another one with same style of illustrations when my first daughter was small, but now I can\’t recall the title or even what it was about…

rating: 4/5 …….. 24 pages, 2002

more opinions at:
My Mummy Reviews

A Book of Opposites 

by DK Publishing

This is my husband\’s favorite board book in the house.  NFL Big and Small features football players in various poses to demonstrate opposites such as big and small, over and under, up and down. The page for happy and sad shows the painted faces of fans. Not all the spreads have famous figures; off and on features a scoreboard, empty and full a box of players\’ gear. Of course, hubby likes the book because his team is in here (the Niners) and I like it for the bright, bold colors and clear illustrations of the word concepts. I think my kid likes the faces, especially the one where a player is sitting on his rear laughing with his tongue sticking out! The initial big and small page is cute, too- it shows a large beefy football player standing next to a toddler in a football shirt. I can\’t tell you who the famous faces are in this book; I\’m pretty clueless when it comes to sports, but the fan in our house loves it, and so does the child!

rating: 4/5 …….. 24 pages, 1999

I just spent my evening quiet time (one of the few nights the kid and baby actually get to bed on time) reading a seed catalog. And I\’m writing about it here because it feels more like an enjoyable reading experience than anything else, plus it\’s not much to note of on my garden blog since I won\’t be ordering seeds from this company. But I would, if I lived in the Pacific Northwest. Here\’s the deal.

I once bought my mother some flower seed for her garden from Uprising Seeds. I thought what better way to have varieties that will do well in your climate, than to buy from a company that grows the very seed right there in your home state? Not only that, but their plants are old heirloom varieties, many that are in danger of going extinct. I was happy to get my mom some of their seed, but when their catalog arrived at my door this winter thought meh: I love them, but they probably won\’t grow for me over here, in a different climate zone. But I started thumbing through the catalog anyway, just curious.

And found it was such fun to read. It was heartening to read the little intro page about the local farms that produce the seed and all the integrity these people put into their work. You can tell by reading the words that they love plants. And the descriptions next to the variety names not only all sound very enticing, but also quite honest: some of them just say crop failed next to it. Others mention that the crop is small, or that it was so lovely they couldn\’t help eating the produce in the field instead letting it mature into seed (I\’m hoping that\’s a joke, mostly)! Most tell something about the history of the plant, or extol its virtues, but all in a way that\’s utterly charming, engaging, and sometimes downright funny. There\’s a tomato with soft, fuzzy leaves, a lettuce variety that dates back to 1799. Have you ever read a produce description before that said oh-my-god-these-are-so-cute? And listen to this about the pumpkins: There are some people in the house who believe pumpkin pie is not reserved for special occasions. The occasion is the pie and every day is open for celebration. If this describes you or who you\’d like to be or be around, you will thank yourself for growing this pie pumpkin…. there will be enough to share. Sharing is good. Eat. More. Pie. 

So I just kept reading, because it was fun. Usually I linger over all the pictures in seed catalogs but this one doesn\’t need them, the writing is so good. It made me long for some of their plants, and feel sad that I didn\’t live in the vicinity of Uprising Seeds anymore. I need to find me a seed company like this in Virginia. Anybody know of one?

by Paradise Press

There are so many first-number books out there for babies, I couldn\’t even find ours online so had to scan my own for the picture. As you can see, it\’s well-worn from already surviving one daughter\’s infancy!  First the book goes through numbers one to ten, each page showing the numeral, with its number spelled out and naming the objects in the picture: 3 three blocks, 5 five cuddly teddy bears, etc. When it gets to 7 seven soft kittens, the pictures cover the entire two-page spread. After the number ten, we get twenty shiny beetles, fifty friendly dogs, and one hundred pretty butterflies. I\’ve counted the beetles and the dogs, but never all the butterflies. I\’m sure there\’s a hundred on that page! My older daughter and I used to pause on the beetle and butterfly pages to pick out our favorites- there really are so many pretty ones. The last few pages invite young readers to count different sets of objects mixed together, and the last page shows groups of objects from one to ten on a single spread. It\’s a nice solid little book with lots of counting opportunities. The pictures are all bold, bright and adorable (although the teddy bears look kind of anemic to me). My baby doesn\’t count yet but she likes to look at the images and I\’m sure she\’s absorbing something about the numbers as well. The only oddity is that on the back cover a clown is pictured, and there are no clowns inside the book. Maybe it\’s supposed to match the jack-in-the-box on the first page, but their faces are so different.

rating: 4/5 …….. 28 pages, 2004

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All books reviewed on this site are owned by me, or borrowed from the public library. Exceptions are a very occasional review copy sent to me by a publisher or author, as noted. Receiving a book does not influence my opinion or evaluation of it

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