Month: November 2013

by Laura S. Jeffrey

Another kid\’s book about fishkeeping. The title is a bit misleading, it has far more information than just how to choose the right fish for your space and conditions. There\’s information on tank setups, water conditioning, where to situate the aquarium and so forth. Also some info on what kinds of fish are compatible for communities, and how to maintain a healthy environment for the fish. I liked this book. It recommends that you start with species that are hardy and easy to care for, and tells how to do research on the fish before making a purchase- even noting that pet store employees will not always know what they\’re talking about! The book points out that you should be conscious of where the pet store gets their stock from- are the fish wild-caught in ways that deplete reef ecosystems? or are they raised in hatcheries? All things to think about.

The book has very good pictures, as well.

Rating: 3/5    48 pages, 2013

more opinions:
Marina\’s Tween Materials Blog

by Sarah Williams

This fact book felt familiar to me, the way it was laid out. It\’s in a kid\’s non-fiction series, and I feel pretty sure that I read a book laid out like this before, but perhaps didn\’t blog about it. This is not a trivia book about fish as might first appear, instead it\’s your regular instruction book with basic information about the history of keeping fish, their biology and needs, how to set up a tank, choose healthy pets etc. But all laid out in brief numbered paragraphs, thus the 101. Odd, but maybe easier for kids to read?

I learned from this book that fish scales don\’t actually have any color. The pigment comes from the skin underneath. Some fish have no skin pigment and are transparent! And that the shape of a fish\’s mouth can tell you what kind of food it eats. There is some misinformation here, though. It says that algae is a kind of fungus (not!) and that once a year you should take your entire fish tank apart and scrub everything with soap (NO! this will kill the fish) Mention of rainbowfish, tinfoil barbs, rasboras, glass catfish and mudskippers led me to look them up online. The last one- mudskipper- I have heard of before but didn\’t know they could be kept in an aquarium.

Rating: 2/5   32 pages, 1976

by Dana Meachan Rau

This kid\’s book about keeping fish is a good introduction. It outlines basic setup, water maintenance and fish care. I appreciate the fact that the book points out that although you have to spend time caring for your fish, they are only for looking at and you can\’t play with them like a cat or dog. That\’s important for kids to realize! While the book advises that saltwater aquariums require a lot more specialized equipment and are harder to care for, it then goes on to profile quite a few popular saltwater fish. I can just see a kid reading this book and begging their parents to get a pair of clownfish or a seahorse. I\’ve been wanting for a long time to one day keep seahorses, but in no way am I ready for their special needs! The fish species that get brief profiles here (describing needs, water requirements and behavior) include angelfish, bettas, blue-green chromis, goldfish, seahorse, molly, guppy, clownfish, platies and neon tetras. The pictures are okay, nothing spectacular. And while the book didn\’t introduce me to many new fish (the only one I hadn\’t heard of before was the chromis) I did learn that neon tetras\’ color gets duller when they are asleep, and that live-bearing fish (guppies, mollies and platies) like brackish water.

Overall I think this book is very good for children interested in keeping an aquarium, it really lets you know what you\’re getting into. Borrowed this one from the public library.

Rating: 3/5   48 pages, 2009

book titles I found on other blogs, in the past couple weeks:

The Death of Santini by Pat Conroy- The Lost Entwife

Returning to the Lakota Way by James M. Marshall- The Lost Entwife
the Man Who Planted Trees by Jean Giono- So Many Books
Alice in Tumblr-Land by Tim Manley- The Lost Entwife
The Mad Scientist\’s Daughter by Cassandra Rose Clarke- The Lost Entwife
C.S. Lewis on Stories and Other Essays On LitearatureAcross the Page
Dollybird by Anne Lazurko- Indextrious Reader
The Urban Bestiary by Lyanda Lynn Haupt – Bookwyrme’s Lair

Making the list was a bit discouraging this time. Only the first title is available at my library. The rest I\’ll have to wait, or find elsewhere…

A Complete Pet Owner\’s Manual
by Axel Gutjahr

This is a book from one of those educational series, the kind of pet manual you\’d probably find in a store alongside fish supplies (my copy came from the library). Barron\’s, in this case. It has lot of the solid, basic information I\’m looking to brush up on, plus plenty of bright, enticing photographs of fish species. Like most fish-keeping instructionals, the book goes over basic aquarium necessities, fish care, some disease control, easy live plant choices, how to balance and maintain water quality and so forth. For such a short book, it has a lot of information! I read about some things I\’d never heard of- that some people use computers to regulate the lighting in their aquariums and simulate sunrise/sunset conditions?! (sounds expensive), that some filters pass the water through ultraviolet light to sterilize it?! And while the book advises to test for pH and water hardness and to control oxygen exchange, it makes no mention at all of ammonia, nitrites or nitrates, which is what I\’ve been monitoring. It\’s only five years old, I didn\’t think the chemical testing I\’m doing was such a very new thing…

Regardless, it\’s also given me plenty of new ideas on how to beautify my aquarium with water plants. And has suggestions on finding and making your own decor out of bamboo stems, coconut shells, river rocks and driftwood (must be cleaned and prepared, but I\’m going to try some of this!) The pictures and descriptions of popular fish have changed my lineup a little bit. I\’m now adding zebra danios, swordtails, black skirt tetras, blue gourami, striped panchax or other killifish varities to the list of possibilities for my tank.

Rating: 3/5    64 pages, 2008

Calling Animals by Name
by Vicki Hearne

I haven\’t read a book this difficult nor so excellent, in quite some time. Vicki Hearne is an animal trainer who works with dogs and horses, also writes poetry and studies philosophy. So the book touches on all those things, but mostly is (to my understanding) about how we communicate with animals, how that relates to understanding and training them. I can\’t quite explain how that all intertwines with philosophy, because I admit I didn\’t understand all those parts. I like how the author thinks, but often the details of her explanations would loose me (thus it was a good book to take to bed. About one chapter and my brain was tired!) I think it shows its time, because a lot of her stance appears to be reactionary to the aftermath of Hitler\’s era- she encounters a lot of dog owners and trainers who believe that strict obedience is abhorrent because look what it lead to in Germany. Also she butts heads with lots of people- pet owners, trainers she disapproves of, behavioral scientists and university professors all- who claim that animals react to things merely in a mechanical fashion and have no sense of reason or emotion. Hearne adamantly believes otherwise, and strives to prove it. She shares some compelling stories about training dogs in obedience and tracking work, and of working with problematic horses. I found her description of how horses think and communicate particularly fascinating- I didn\’t know they were so tactile. There\’s also a very interesting section about pit bull dogs. She had one, and the media hysteria about these dogs as dangerous animals was just starting to boil up. She remembers when these dogs were beloved as a bold, friendly and all-american breed. Runs into trouble when brings one on campus, even though the dog is obviously well-mannered. I was most curious to read one of the final chapters, which is her opinions on how cats think and deal with people, but admit I had trouble comprehending that one. It\’s definitely a book I\’m keeping on my shelf to read again, because I want to understand better the things Hearne is getting at.

Oh, and I loved the fact that she was constantly referring to literature, especially how stories about animals reflected or influenced our ideas and perceptions of them. She mentions myriad famous animal stories, also quotes from Virginia Woolf, Shakespeare, C.S. Lewis and Rudyard Kipling. And the introduction was written by Donald McCaig. I always enjoy it when the books I have talk to other books I also have on my shelves. It makes me feel like they are having a conversation and I am in the middle and in good company.

Rating: 4/5     274 pages, 1982

more opinions:
From the Armchair

Great Pets
by Marjorie L. Buckmaster

I\’m planning on starting up an old hobby- keeping tropical fish. It\’s been sixteen years or more since I had a fish tank, so while I wait for the setup to be complete and the tank cycled, I\’m reading up on all I can find and doing my research about what kinds of fish I\’ll get. This starts, of course, with lots of online reading. I\’ve read posts on fish forums until I feel like my eyes are going to fall out. So on our latest trip to the public library I brought home all the books I could find that seemed applicable- either to tropical fishkeeping in general, or to the specific species I\’m considering for my tank. The selection among the adult non-fiction books is pretty slim, so I brought home a stack from the juvenile section as well. If nothing else, these books remind me of the basics in a very solid way, and they usually have fantastic photographs to admire while I daydream about my own aquatic pets.

So, Freshwater Fishes was the first one I read. My older daughter immediately commented on the title: isn\’t the plural of fish just fish? The book explains: when you speak of two or more fish of the same species, you use the plural form fish. If you\’re talking about a group of different species together, you say fishes. I had no idea!

That\’s not the only thing this book taught me. I knew that goldfish have been kept domestically for centuries, and that the practice began in China, but I didn\’t know that people have been keeping fish for over 4,500 years, and that they were first kept as food stock. I also learned a bit about the presence of fish in mythology, some cultures even have fish deities- although the book only touched on this.

Mostly, this book was a reminder of the basics for me again. It explains the anatomy of fishes, their dietary and temperature requirements, how to set up a fishtank, how to clean it, how to choose healthy-looking fish and steps to introduce them into the aquarium. There are also some brief descriptions of popular species including: bettas, mollies, goldfish and koi, guppies, tetras, gouramis and algae eaters. The book tells young readers how to keep their fish healthy with regular water changes, strict feeding schedules and being careful to match fish temperaments when keeping a community tank, as well as being mindful of how large the fish will grow, so they have enough space.

I was a bit surprised that with all the details on regulating temperature and such, one important part was left out: dechlorinating or conditioning tap water before adding it to the tank. I shouldn\’t be too critical: the book is probably meant to give kids facts and get them excited about keeping an aquarium, expecting that most will have an adult helping. But still, it\’s such an important thing to omit! Another thing that alarmed me was that the book says you can keep goldfish in a bowl with only once-a-week water changes. That\’s bad advice. I started out with goldfish in a bowl myself as a kid, and I remember very clearly that I had to change the water once a day. Goldfish simply poop a lot. It wasn\’t until I put my goldfish in a filtered tank that I had ones survive any length of time- I think my oldest lived to be a few years. (I did have a certain pair of angelfish live for ten years, when later I had tropical fish).

Well, I liked the book for all that it reminded me of, and enjoyed the pictures. I\’m getting excited about my new venture!

Rating: 3/5      48 pages, 2008

by Ken Foster

I picked this book up at a used sale because I did enjoy Foster\’s first volume, Dogs Who Found Me. In this book Foster tells of returning to his home in New Orleans after hurricane Katrina, and continuing rescuing dogs he finds wandering on the streets. His work now includes book signings and travels, also quite a few television appearances speaking in behalf of dogs, particularly pit pulls and related breeds. But strangely, my impression was that most of this book was about the people involved in dog rescue, not the dogs themselves. Either that, or there were simply too many dogs mentioned, with not enough details on them, that I failed to remember any of them individually. Which ultimately, made me bored with the whole book. That disappoints me, as I liked the first one so well. The book is also stuffed with letters from readers and other people telling about their own experiences rescuing dogs, their own pit bulls, or simply how touched they were by Foster\’s book, for whatever reason. While I appreciate how this showed the many people Foster has reached, the numbers of other people helping lost and misplaced dogs, and the strength of the human/dog bond, it also felt a distraction to me, like the author was using it as filler because he didn\’t have as much to say. Hm. Maybe it\’s my own fault, being distracted? That\’s often the case when I can\’t focus on a book. So please do read the reviews linked to below. The do better justice to this book, which I\’m sure is good in its own right, just didn\’t work for me right now.

There is an extensive resource listing in the back, of rescue groups and organizations that work with certain misunderstood dog breeds or help people with their dogs. Certainly useful!

Rating: 2/5    192 pages, 2008

more opinions:
American Dog Blog
Two Little Cavaliers
anyone else?

There were only two entries for my latest bookmark set, so to make it a bit more fun than just punching an integer into, I wrote the names on slips of paper

and let my kid pick

it\’s Anna!

please email me your postal address and I\’ll send these along

vol. 10

by Konami Kanata

My older daughter and I have been waiting for the new installment of Chi\’s Sweet Home, so I was thrilled to see it finally available at the library. It picks up right where the last one left off, with Cocchi the stray kitten still confused at the strangeness of Chi\’s pampered home. He finds the restrictions too frustrating- not to scratch walls and furniture, dictated where to pee, etc- and runs off outside again.

There are a few little plot arcs through this story. One is that Chi\’s \”Daddy\” finds a lost poster with her picture on it, and debates whether or not to tell his family. When the wife learns about it, they argue several times: should they contact her missing first family? how can they give up Chi, or break up the bond between Chi and their son Yohei?

Chi herself starts to notice the differences between herself and her human family- only she has a tail, for example. The big grey Bear Cat points out Chi\’s feline features, and she starts to learn to act more like a cat- how to control her claws, hunting practice, etc. It\’s really cute to see her feline nature unfolding more and more, and her fumbling attempts to hone her skills.

Meanwhile Chi and Cocchi meet a pair of tabby kittens who look strangely familiar. The quartet of kittens romping and playing together are absolutely adorable! Of course the reader realizes these are probably Chi\’s silblings, but the cats themselves don\’t yet, though they are intrigued and puzzled by their uncanny similarities. Cocchi especially notices that Chi looks almost exactly like one of the other tabby kittens. Chi and her friend are confused by the kittens\’ references to their \”momma\” and ask the friendly Auntie Calico what a \”momma\” is. Their imaginings based on her description are hilarious. It seems at several points that Chi will meet her lost mother, but this never quite happens, leaving lots of anticipation for the next volume!

Rating: 4/5   160 pages, 2013

more opinions:
Geek Lit Etc


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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