Month: November 2012

I just can’t seem to help myself. When the books are free, I grab everything that looks interesting. Regardless of whether I’ve ever heard of it before. And I hadn’t been to the Book Thing in several years, so I was extra-excited about the prospects. So… I brought seventy-two new-to-me books home this weekend. I won’t make notes on them all, because I know so little about most of them- but really, how can you pass up titles like Wooden Fish Songs or The Grasshopper King? And things like Through the Eyes of a Young Naturalist look like they were written just for me.

Well, here they are! Some brief mentions about each stack just below it. You can click on any image to see the titles larger. If you recognize some of these books, please do tell me how wonderful (or awful) they are! I’d love to know.

Those three little black books on the top seem to be humorous accounts of a young physician’s first years of practice. They look entertaining.
Lad: A Dog by Albert Payson Terhune. I read this wayyy back in the days when I was also going through all the Jim Kjelgaard books I could get my hands on. Like Lassie, it’s about a remarkably intelligent hero-dog man’s best friend yadda yadda. But I might still like it and get some nostalgia out of reading it again.
Snake by somebody Gody seems to be about a black mamba that terrorizes New York City. I probably won’t be frightened but might get some good chuckles out of it.
The Kitchen Madonna and The Diddakoi by Rumer Godden- always anxious to read more Godden but I’m hoping Diddakoi isn’t the one that I recall Jenny decrying as the worst Godden book ever….  !
The Mimosa Tree by Vera and Bill Cleaver- I picked this one up just because I am so delighted in the little mimosa tree in my windowsill, not that I have any clue what the book is about!
Love, Let Me Not Hunger by Paul Gallico- another author I’ve loved but read very few of his works. Never heard of this one before and curiously turning some pages it seems to be about a little circus that falls on hard times.

Un Lun Dun by China Miéville- I picked this up because I read some reviews about it who-knows-when and thought it looked interesting.

Egret by Helen Collins- is not about a bird, but about a young artist in New York City. I’m really curious about that one.
The Whale Rider by Witi Ihimaera- remember the movie of same title, that was out some years ago? This seems to be the original story.
The Midwife’s Tale by Gretchen Moras Laskas- when I got home I realized not only did I already have this book, but I tried to read it and didn’t finish it. Oops! Anyone want a copy?
Brokeback Mountain by Annie Proulx- I saw all the hype about this when it was a new film. I didn’t realize it was at first a short story. I was surprised the book was so little. I\’m hoping since it’s so short there’s not too many -ahem- explicit scenes so I might read it.
I’m Not Scared by Niccolo Ammaniti- I still recall the moment when a roommate’s friend in college recommended this book to me. And I put it on my list but never read it. That was roughly fifteen years ago. Yet when I saw it on the shelf I immediately recoginzed it and remembered who told me about it. How’s that for memory!

A Zoo for All Seasons– published by the Smithsonian Institute, this book is about the National Zoo. I like books about zoos. And not only does it have photographs (a bit old fashioned, but still good!) but also some lovely drawings.
How I Photograph Wildlife and Nature by Leonard Lee Rue- I don’t know who this guy is, and I don’t know if his photography advice is still pertinent (maybe outdated, at least as far as equipment recommendations go) but just from thumbing through I saw that he had a lot of notes about animal behaviour, because he tells you how to get close enough to wildlife to get good pictures. That alone interests me.

The rest of this stack is mostly National Geographic books focused on various places in the world- mostly about nature, as you can see. I hope they’re good reading! If not, the pictures will still be appreciated.

The Maine Woods by Henry Thoreau- I didn’t know he wrote about the woods in Maine. Perhaps this one will be a bit more accessible to me than Walden, which I’ve tried a few times but made little headway…
Bodach the Badger– I’m stoked about this book! It wasn’t until I got home and looked inside the cover more that I realized it was by the same author who wrote String Lug the Fox, an old favorite of mine that I found by chance at a used bookstore one day ages ago. Delighted!
The Searching Spirit by Joy Adamson- I did so like her books about Elsa the lioness, the cheetahs and leopard she also raised. Curious to read what else she has to say, although I think from what other sources tell me I should temper this by reading George’s words as well (that’s always been a goal of mine anyways).
Animal Liberations by Peter Singer- I think this is a classic in the animal-rights world.
Rosy is My Relative by Gerald Durrell- all the books I’ve come across by Gerald Durrell were about his forays around the world animal-collecting: I didn’t know he wrote fiction. But of course, even his fiction features animals- at a glance this one seems to be about an elephant.
Donkeys Galore by Averil Swinfen- a book about a stud donkey farm. How fun is that?

The Giraffe by Marie Nimier- apparently a little fable about a zookeeper who falls in love with a giraffe. Sounds a bit bizarre.
Lie Down in Darkness by Williem Styron- this is one of those titles I have always recognized, it sticks in my mind for some reason. Now perhaps I’ll finally learn what it’s about.
Birds of America by Lorrie Moore- I assumed, as did the people who shelved this book in the natural history section, that it was about birds. But it’s actually a short story collection. Hm.
Portrait of Jennie by Robert Nathan- this is an old favorite of mine but I got a second copy on purpose so I can give it to one of you when I finally write about this dear book!

African Violets by Helen van Pelt Wilson- mine aren\’t flowering. Maybe this book will tell me why!
In and Out of the Garden by Sara Midda- this book looks absolutely lovely. It’s little notes and tidbits about gardening all with the most wonderful handdrawn lettering and illustrations. Here’s a few samples I pulled offline.

the rest of that stack is mostly books about birds, especially birds of prey. I’ve always had a minor fascination with falconry. Picking up on that once again…

see anything you recognize? What should I read soonest?

People Talk About What They Do All Day and How They Feel About What They Do
by Studs Terkel

I can\’t remember the last time it took me so long to read a book. The length alone is not the cause. This book is an oral history, a compilation of essays, so it was easy to dip in and out of it without loosing focus. It\’s made up of interviews, where people from all across the nation, from all walks of life and all types of occupations, discuss what they do for a living. Some are proud of their work, others feel it\’s a meaningless grind. Their words express sorrow, longing, frustration, hope, contentment, even on occasion irresponsibility and there was one guy who sounded downright crazy. He was very much the square peg in a round hole. Working was published in the early seventies and this one essay I\’m thinking of was a young hippy-type guy talking about how he\’d do things at the office that others perceived as subversive. From simply wearing his hair long and ignoring the dress code to meditating in the middle of an office floor, just sitting there would work other people up into a fit! It was very amusing to read his words but also a bit alarming- for someone who professed to be a pacifist he sure did talk about violence a lot.

Anyway, you\’ll find here the words of firemen, chefs, doctors, store clerks, truck drivers, family farmers, business executives, waitresses, traveling salesmen, nurses, miners and factory workers, just about anything you can imagine people doing. Mechanics. Housewives. Hotel owners. Cabdrivers. Stockbrokers. Insurance and car salesmen. Doormen, policemen, mail carriers, meter readers, barbers, even a prostitute. And more. I think my favorite was the segment about the work of a bookbinder! Very interesting. Some interviews pair the voices of fathers and sons next to each other, or of husband and wife. People who have their dream job, a position they\’ve worked hard for. Others who don\’t quite know how they ended up in that occupation but are stuck with it. People new to the country and those who had been here for generations. Old people looking back at the end of a lifelong career, young people talking about change and the future. Some get into discussing unions, organization and workers rights and strikes; others discuss prejudice and how the way people treat you or perceive your job can make it feel demeaning; yet others talk about the satisfaction of physical labor, of creating a well-made product, of serving people the best way they can.

Particularly interesting was to read the book with an attention to its time frame; a lot of the older generation in it talk about how things have changed since the Depression era, or since the thirties when they were young; but their description of how things were in their now (the seventies) compared to my now (the 21st century) gave it another perspective altogether. It is a fascinating book, a lively tome full of rich, varied voices. Recommended.

rating: 4/5 …….. 589 pages, 1972

by DK Publishing

This is one of my toddler\’s favorite board books right now. We got it from a library sale. I think she likes it so much because it\’s very small, so fits well in her hands and just by its size alone is charming. Plus, she loves chicks! Next to cats, I think they\’re her favorite animal. She learned to say \”bock, bwak\” before any other animal sound and when we go to the petting zoo she laughs and wiggles at the baby chicks. No other critter there gets the same reaction of delight.

The little book shows the mother hen sitting on eggs, then the baby chicks hatching. After that each spread shows the chicks doing something- pecking at seeds, sipping water, finding things (a seed and a nasturtium flower), or just standing around in groups looking cute. The text is very simple descriptions of what is going on for each page. It\’s a darling little book.

rating: 3/5 ……. 20 pages, 2003

by Milet Publishing

This book is full of illustrations of animals with their names in both english and spanish. Each spread has a few animals in groups more or less according to their habitat; pets are grouped together, as are arctic animals, jungle animals, a fish with a crab, livestock animals, etc. The one odd grouping is of a zebra and giraffe with a kangaroo on the same page. A minor quibble, but it stood out to me particularly because the bottom edge of each spread has a graphic illustration showing the habitat: water, lawn, fenced pasture, etc. It\’s a nice little touch. But kangaroos don\’t live in the same place as giraffes. Neither do lions and tigers for that matter (except for the introduced ones!) but that doesn\’t bother me as much. Although they really should have put the lion on the page with the giraffe…

Anways. The book also is a curious mix of both photographs and illustrations. All the insects are illustrations, for example, as are the habitats. It works, though.

A bigger issue with this one is simply that my kid doesn\’t seem to like it! Maybe I need to talk up its charms  and say more about each picture (\”look at the kitty! what is that kitty doing? does he want his tummy petted?  meow!\”) but for whatever reason after just a few pages of naming animals she\’s ready to move on to another book.

rating: 2/5 ……. 24 pages, 2011

by Michael Blake 

Another board book we picked up at the public library. Delightfully simple, each page or spread has a photograph from nature with a certain color prominent. Red shows some poppy flowers, green a frog on a leaf, pink a vivid flamingo, gray some seals snuggled in a pile, etc. All close-ups, beautiful photography. The final spread is of a mix of autumn leaves with many colors.

But what I really like about this book is something that puzzled me at first. The page edges don\’t line up. They\’re not all smooth in a block, but each gets an eighth of an inch shorter towards the center spread, then they each get a bit wider again to the final page. I thought it was an error or the book\’s spine had just got incredibly worn and loose, but then I noticed a label on the back said \”easy-open, specially designed for little hands.\” And it is easier to turn the pages like this. I thought of how many times I\’ve seen my toddler sitting there fumbling on the edge of a smooth, tight page block trying to get her little finger to hook the next page, and understood. Great idea for a little book!

rating: 4/5 …….16 pages, 2006

by Jill Hartley

I picked up this little square book because I so much liked another one by the same author, Circle + Square. For some reason this one didn\’t quite have the same appeal, though. There are twice as many pictures featuring stripes than arrows for one thing, so it feels rather unbalanced. The pictures aren\’t quite as colorful, at least not all of them. I do find it interesting how many different objects present stripes: cloth, shadows, patterned socks, candy, stairs, a zebra\’s hide. Whereas the arrows are almost all from signs and drawings. One stands out, it is a sign of a hand shape pointing. Regardless, my toddler doesn\’t find this book very interesting, at least not the two times I\’ve picked it up to show her yet. So I think this one is going back to the library soon. The kid on the cover is really cute, though!

rating: 2/5 …….. 12 pages, 2008

by Simms Taback

Wow, this blog is really languishing. I\’ve just been very slow at reading Working. In the meantime, however, I\’ve made the happy discovery that the new-to-me public library branch has a huge selection of board books, so we\’ve been bringing them home in piles. The little one will run over when I say \”let\’s read a story. Go get a book!\” and pull one out of her bottom shelf. This is one of her favorites lately.

Where is My Friend? has, like most baby books, a simple premise. On each spread an animal (usually looking dejected) asks where is my friend? then you turn a flap, his face becomes a smile or surprised expression, and a second animal is revealed standing next to him. I like that the animal pairings match their environments: the zebra has an ostrich friend, the hippo a flamingo, the seal is with a penguin, kangaroo with a koala, moose with a turkey (who looks cross for some reason). As a final pair we meet a little boy who has a dog friend, and at the very end all the animals march across the page together. It\’s cute, but I don\’t really care for the artwork. It just doesn\’t appeal to me. However, my daughter really likes turning those flaps to find all the different animals, so for her it\’s a good book.

Rating: 3/5 …….. 16 pages, 1984


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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