Month: November 2013

by Diane Stanley

This lovely picture book is another interpretation of Goldilocks and the Three Bears. Utterly charming, this story tells of a little girl with wildly curly hair who happens to be very particular. She likes everything to be just so, including her choice of friends- some girls are too rowdy, or too prissy or too something else to really be friends with Goldie. Her parents worry about her not having many friends, but Goldie is waiting to find just the right friend, someone she can really appreciate. Then one day she comes across a house with the door open (she\’s seeking help to get home when mistakenly gets off at the wrong bus stop) and here the story becomes familiar. Goldie is hungry and tries all the sandwiches on the table- the last one is just right. She tries all the chairs in the living room (and reads her favorite book), then takes a nap after trying out all the beds. When the family comes home, of course they are bears and the little girl bear is quite upset- she looses her temper and leaps at Goldie on the bed. But- surprise! – the bed is bouncy and suddenly the little girl and little bear are giggling and having fun. Goldie calls her mom, stays to play a while, and becomes best friends with a bear cub who likes to dress up, jump in leaf piles and build block towers. It\’s a great story about friendship and being yourself, based on an old classic tale.

Borrowed from the public library.

Rating: 4/5   34 pages, 2003

more opinions:
books my kids read
fishing for anthea

I\’m signing up once again for C.B. James’ TBR Dare, which runs from january through the first of april. I will truly be disappointed if this is the last year he hosts the Dare. I have enjoyed participating each year, and it gives me a little more motivation to try and clear some space on my shelves. Last count (using my librarything catalog) I have 240 books on my shelves that I haven’t read yet. That’s plenty for four months’ reading!

The whole point, in case you haven’t run across the TBR Dare before, is simply to read only books off your own shelves (or library reserves, it’s pretty flexible) for the first four months of the year. You can sign up here at Ready When You Are, CB- if you dare!

* note added: I will be sticking to the rule of reading books already in house, making exception for the library books I read with my children

by Franklin Russell

Abundance of life. That is the overwhelming message I got out of this book which describes the lives of creatures that inhabit a pond (and its shoreline) through one full season. Each chapter has a portion of the season or an aspect of the animals\’ lives to cover, and within that focus describes snippets of the lives of myriad beings, from tiny microscopic things that swim in the water to swarming insects on land and birds in the air, only occasionally mentioning the animals that I\’m used to seeing featured- the mammals and at the very apex, the predators. Overall it was a huge naming of so very very many small things that live and survive against all odds- insects galore, larvae and hydra and algae and worms and fish fry and tadpoles and so on. Turtles, squirrels, moths, wasps, mantids, beetles, elvers, hares, snakes and many many more. The briefest of mention on how they all go about their lives, whether it be mating, raising young, surviving the cold of winter, hunting or avoiding being eaten, etc. It was just such a broad scope and so little time spent on each animal that ultimately I found it a bit tiresome. But I was in awe at how well it shows the interlacing of all life, the intricate way all the little things fit together in this one arena which is the pond, and how vast the numbers are that support the very few at the top- the owl and hawk, the mink and weasel, the raccoon and fox.

It did send me quite a few times to look things up, wanting to know more about the ichneumon wasp, the life cycle of diatoms, to hear the call of a bobolink. I didn\’t know that a mink would prey upon herons at the water\’s edge. And I was continually confused that the author referred to all young birds as \”chickens\”- as in blue jay chickens, grouse chickens, a female nuthatch\’s chickens, etc. Is that just what baby birds were called in the sixties, or was it a local term …?

What a wide vision this book gave me, of all the wild lives that are interwoven in nature in just one particular space. And I love the cover illustration. It didn\’t surprise me at all to look it up and discover it was one of my favorite artist duos, Leo and Diane Dillon.

Rating: 3/5    241 pages, 1961

more opinions:
Wildlife Almanac

by Barbara Gowdy

I don\’t remember now how this book first came across my radar. I must have seen some reviews of it a while back, but something kept it from actually making it onto my TBR list. Turns out my hunch was partly right- the book didn\’t quite work for me. But I was in the mood to read more about elephants, and a book written from an elephant\’s point of view seemed just the thing.

The story is about a family of african elephants living through perilous times- drought and human poaching being the greatest dangers. Their lives are dominated by a matriarchal society, which has its own rules and codes of conduct. They are highly emotional animals, with strong family ties and are often overcome by powerful memories, to the point of having difficulty distinguishing memories from reality. As the story progresses, it follows several different elephants in their daily life and travels, but always revolves back to a single one called Mud. The book begins with Mud\’s birth, and ends with the arrival of her first own calf.

Most of the story is about how the elephants are trying to survive the drought, searching for water, and for a rumored haven of safety, where no humans threaten them and there is abundant green food. There are legends of a white calf\’s rib that will direct animals towards the safe place, so they are alternately searching for that and also for missing members of their family. Because they run into tragedy (several times) when poachers shoot large numbers of them, and the family dissolves alarmingly when the matriarch dies and new leadership proves to be lacking. It was a stark reminder of how these animals depend on each other and how devastating the loss of family members must be to them.

Yet I found it difficult to get into the story, and so read most of it too quickly, in order to finish. The habit of the elephants naming themselves in a pattern of alliteration made it difficult for me to remember who was who; the ones with distinct birth names were the only individuals who retained a personality for me. Although any book with animals that communicate in language requires some suspension of belief, the elephants\’ mythology and mind-talking and belief in signs from the landscape felt a bit far-fetched to me. I did like their inclusion of songs, I was touched by their mourning rituals, I was intrigued by how they perceived other animals, man-made objects they came upon, and the prevalence of scent and sound in their world. Overall, though, I felt removed from the entire thing, perhaps because it described an alien way of seeing the world. That was likely the author\’s intent, but unfortunately I had trouble really getting into it.

And the ending is indescribably sad.

Rating: 2/5    330 pages, 1998

more opinions:
Pages Unbound

As you might guess from the scarce posts this week, I\’ve been busy with other things, namely this. I simply haven\’t been reading much, and the three books I am in the middle of are all dragging on me. I need a change of pace to get back into things.

So, here\’s a giveaway! I was looking through my stacks of handmade bookmarks thinking to pick out one with a fall-colors flair, but instead this pair caught my eye (probably because of the book I posted about yesterday, it was on my mind).

The bookmarks feature two wild animals from Asia, the dhole (indian wild dog) and the chital (spotted deer). A fitting set! One will hunt the other… Well, if you\’d like to have these free bookmarks, simply leave a comment and let me know. I\’ll pick a winner at random a week from now.

Field Studies of the Asiatic Wild Dog
by M.W. Fox

This short but very interesting book is about a wild canine that lives in jungles in India, the Indian wild dog, also called the Asiatic wild dog or dhole. I picture it as being something like an australian dingo, for it is mid-sized and reddish in color. It\’s the wild dog that formed the large packs featured in one of Rudyard Kipling\’s Mowgli stories. They are called whistling dogs because apparently they make a piercing whistling noise as a contact call. The author reports making a whistle to attract the dogs to his study area, after days of searching for the animals. The book is one of those written in a very reader-friendly fashion, describing the course of the study, what they learned about the dogs\’ behavior and pack structure, and plenty of interesting anecdotes. It\’s one I\’d dearly like to add to my collection, not having been able to come across another copy since I read this years ago from a public library in San Francisco. Oh, and it has lots of black-and-white photographs, which makes it look dated but they\’re very good images regardless, for the time.

Rating: 3/5    150 pages, 1984

by Lynne Kelly

This middle-grade book is about a boy and a young elephant, both working for the cruel owner of a dilapidated circus in India. The boy, Hastin, is desperate for a job to pay off a medical bill when his sister falls ill. He gets talked into working as an elephant keeper, but when he arrives in the jungle, nothing is as he\’d expected. The circus is in ruins, the elephant has yet to be caught, and his employer keeps adding additional tasks to his job description. When they do catch a young elephant, Hastin immediately feels sympathy for the animal and guilty for his part in separating her from her family. He tries to care for her, but all the while secretly wants to set her free.

Unfortunately, while I liked this book at the start, I began to loose interest about halfway through. I\’m just not the right target audience anymore (feel like I\’ve said this before) and it takes a certain kind of writing style to keep my attention in a book aimed at younger readers. It\’s a good story, but a lot of it just felt flat to me. Even though the characters weren\’t quite all black-and-white. The trainer, while overworking the elephant and using cruel practices to teach her tricks, showed that he had a measure of kindness in his heart as well. The elderly man who worked as cook in the camp, proved himself to be a wealth of knowledge about elephants and was a mentor to Hastin. But he has a dark past as well. The owner, appearing kind and enthusiastic when he first met Hastin, soon proves himself to be a strict taskmaster, never paying Hastin and always adding more time onto his service until it seems the boy will never be free of what has become intolerable work conditions.

I finished the book, wanting to know what happened, but even though events escalated I didn\’t care enough about the characters anymore, and found myself skimming the last few chapters. I do think kids interested in elephants or India would like this book, and I appreciated how it taught quite a bit about different areas of the country, cultural practices and religious beliefs throughout the story. There\’s also a lot of description about elephants, mostly in the form of things Hastin observes or learns from the old man. And of course, there is the pervasive theme of captivity- both the now-illegal practices of catching wild elephants and training them to perform, and child labor.

Rating: 2/5   248 pages, 2012

More opinions:
I Read Banned Books
Marcia Hoehne
Presenting Lenore

from the following bloggers, as usual

also noted: I cleaned off my desk and found a few handwritten notes that had book titles in them. Looked them up and added to this TBR post, but I don\’t recall where I originally found them. Probably in the course of some other reading. When looking books up (for borrowing availability) I discovered a dangerously attractive feature my library\’s website has: it suggests books of similar subject at the bottom of an item page. So I found a lot more titles in the catalog that I want to read someday.

yay for books! I am glad for the endless supply. Reading is the best hobby/passion ever!

What the Dog Knows by Cat Warren
The $100 Startup by Chris Guillebeau – Opinions of a Wolf
the Genius of Dogs by Brian Hare and Vanessa Woods
A Beautiful Truth by Colin McAdam- Reading the End
The Girl with No Name by Marina Chapman- library catalog find
The Pastures of Beyond by Dayton O. Hyde- library find
Tibet Wild by George Schaller- library find
Lost in My Own Backyard by Tim Cahill- library find
James Herriot: Life of a country Vet by Graham Lord- library find
The Grizzly Maze by Nick Jans
All My Patients Kick and Bite by Jeff Wells
The Gift of Pets by Bruce Coston
Gardening at Dragon\’s Gate by Wendy Johnson
Dog Talk by Harrison Forbes
Part Wild by Ceirdwen Terrill
Ask the Animals by Bruce Coston

Octopus by Katherin Harmon Courage- Bookwyrme\’s Lair
Octopus by Anderson, Mather and Wood- Bookwyrme\’s Lair
The Forest Unseen by David George Haskell- Shelf Love
Wainscot Weasel by Tor Seidler
End of the Game by Peter Beard


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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