Tag: Juvenile Nonfic

the Greater World of Sports

by Michael Decker

What do you know- apparently dodgeball is considered a sport, with uniformed teams, organized leagues and everything. (Least amount of equipment ever, the book points out more than once- all you need is a ball!) It’s been played since the early 1900’s and has more rules than I realized- most of which, if they’d been enforced in games at my elementary school, would have made it more fun. I thought back then it was some awful game made up by sadistic gym teachers- or playground bullies- and was constantly afraid of getting hit in the head by a ball. (Most teams have rules against throws aimed at an opponent’s head). There’s even some universities that have dodgeball teams- and one, in 2012, organized the world’s largest dodgeball game ever- on a field with more than 6,000 participants. The number of balls in play were not recorded. The photograph of the event is crazy! Rubber spheres flying everywhere. How anyone kept track of who missed or scored in that game is a mystery to me. Maybe it was one more lax on the rules. Also impressive- this slender book has an comprehensive little index. Arguably not really needed, but better done than a lot of other nonfiction books I’ve seen.

Borrowed from the public library.

Rating: 3/5
32 pages, 2020

the Greater World of Sports

by Martha London

After I get through the kids’ and juvenile fiction books about just having fun on roller skates, all the books that are YA or adult seem to be about roller derby teams. So I figured I ought to know the basics. I’ve seen a few films about roller derby, and the action is so fast it’s hard to keep track of what’s going on and I didn’t quite get it. Well, now I do- it’s pretty simple actually. This book outlines the basic rules of play, and tells about the history of the sport. It used to be more of a race, and played on banked tracks (now most leagues use flat tracks). And in the 40’s when women’s roller derby was popular on television, they were pretty rough- fights were the norm! So it was fun to learn a bit more, even though I have no intention myself of playing roller derby. I have to say though, I was instantly jealous when on the first pages I read about a junior girls’ league that practices in Seattle in a big empty warehouse. How I’d love to have access to that kind of space! (Nearest roller rink to me is a forty minute drive- a bit much to go multiple times per week). That junior league wasn’t around when I was a kid (started in 2007) and I doubt I would have had the interest back then, but still!

This book is from a juvenile non-fiction series that aims to inform about sports that are “just a bit outside the mainstream” including, on their list of other titles- dodgeball, ultimate frisbee and quidditch. Well, now I’m curious about that too (who actually plays it IRL?)

Borrowed from the public library.

Rating: 3/5
32 pages, 2020

by Judy Ann Sadler

So- during a recent recovery period, I found some much-needed relaxation soaking in long baths with a candle or two at the side. I actually used up all my youngest’s small candles, and feeling a tad guilty about that, I simply made more. It’s surprisingly easy and more fun than I expected. Since then I’ve been collecting interesting small glass containers from thrift stores, and old partly-used candles to melt down, plus saving the drippings from the new ones I acquire. Learned pretty quick that I prefer soy and beeswax candles over anything with paraffin (which gives me headaches). It was really pleasing the week before, to sit in a bath with a row of small candles I’d made myself– thinking: those are here because I did something. (Yeah, I have not been very productive with anything of late, but am getting back to normal activity levels now). I got a bit more ambitious with plans for my next bout of candle-making, but figured I could use some guidance, and I still get fatigue from looking at screens for long periods of time, or I’d readily do a deep dive into candle-making forums (I’m sure they exist).

Instead I tried to find some books at my library on the subject. Surprised that in the entire catalog, there were only three or four books on candle making. Is it really that simple (or unpopular) that nobody’s interested in craft books about it? There’s dozens and dozens of books on cooking, quilt making, paper crafts, woodworking, you name it. I was just a bit disappointed. Well, here’s the first one I read- aimed at kids so yes, it’s very simple and easy to read. It’s an older book. Some of the craft ideas are really fun, like putting a red or pink candle in a white container painted with black spots (think cow, ha ha) or wrapping different colors of beeswax sheets cut in shapes to make a flower, a lighthouse, etc. Others just looked a bit clunky or tacky to me, and a few of the ideas seemed – unsafe? I don’t know, but other places I read briefly online said never to use a clay pot as a candle holder, never to decorate the outside with anything flammable (paper, felt, leaves) as this book suggests.

But I did find a lot of the other instructions and ideas useful, and some should have been obvious to me at the start! Like to put waxed paper down on your work surface or under any container you’re using as a candle mold- drips will easily lift off once cool. Or pour into things like empty cartons to make pillar candles. I really liked the idea of a twisted taper candle, even though I previously never considered trying to make dip candles at all. So I’m going to copy down instructions for a few of the crafts in here, ignore the rest, and hope for more precise details in the other book I checked out, which is written for adults. (There’s things I want to know that this book just doesn’t address at all. I’m sure I can find the info online, but I find it easier to process looking at paper in hand, than turning on a screen all the time).

Borrowed from the public library.

Rating: 3/5
40 pages, 1988

the Story of a Baby Woodchuck

by Faith McNulty

Very short little book about how the author found an orphaned woodchuck and cared for it. She raised it in her house, then moved it to a hole outside by a stone wall on the property, then eventually had to trap and relocate it further away because it kept coming back for handouts! Getting the woodchuck to find and eat wild foods on its own seemed the hardest part. I often see woodchucks in the roadside verges here, and thought of them as just big fat ground squirrels. Which they are. But it was nice to learn a little more about them, and reflect on how beautiful the author eventually found them to be, in their own way. The middle of the book switches from the personal story about this one woodchuck, to share information the author learned via her library research, then it goes back to tell how the woodchuck was finally returned to the wild. The illustrations by Darby Morrell are just exquisite.

Rating: 3/5
40 pages, 1992

by Charise Mericle Harper

Another graphic novel memoir. This one has a very clear focus: sibling relationships and rivalry. Older sister is of course, jealous of her baby brother as a new arrival. When he gets older she finds out what fun it is to play together- and to play tricks on him. Get him into trouble. Come up with new, creative ways to take risks, and carry the game as far as she can, until someone gets hurt. Which was usually her younger brother, though some neighborhood kids got into frays as well. Reminds me a lot of my own childhood, from the taunting of sisters who repeated every word you said, to finding new thrilling ways to catapult yourself onto couch cushions. Sometimes the older sister in this story carries her pranks a bit too far, as when she tricks her little brother into eating cat kibble, or actually provokes the cat into scratching someone. When her brother breaks a tooth in a fall, remorse finally hits her hard, compounded by her brother’s own easy forgiveness. She determines to become a better person, following the example of – who else, really- her younger brother. I wasn’t really keen on the illustration style in this book, but the story really got to me. It’s such an honest depiction of siblings. The arc of character development is very clear and so good to see how with a bit of effort, people can change. And the author was honest about the root of some of her struggles- she could not recognize faces, had difficulty understanding meaning when people used idioms or non-lieteral phrases it made me wonder if perhaps she was a bit on the autism spectrum? or just had face blindness (which Oliver Sacks had, I only recently learned that from his memoir).

Borrowed from the public library.

Rating: 3/5
236 pages, 2021

Sharing Our Urban World

by Ann Downer

I didn’t realize when I picked this book from a recommended list, that it was juvenile non-fiction. I liked it anyway. It’s about wildlife in cities. Why wild animals are becoming more common in urban areas, why that’s a problem, and what people are doing about it. The book tells about raccoons, black bears, cougars, sea turtles, crows, bats, coyotes and alligators in particular, but also mentions some other species. Details why exactly certain animals start to inundate cities. Some are very adaptable, having a broad diet, ease in finding their way around or making do with different kinds of living space. Some have developed a very short flight distance, being unafraid of people. And others are simply forced into close contact with people because of habitat overlapping or being lost- in particular the flying foxes in Sydney Australia and loggerhead turtles in Florida. I thought that most of the animals mentioned would be numerous- and that’s the case for many, but not all. Deer, raccoons and coyotes are in no danger of disappearing soon. But the flying foxes and sea turtles are. It’s troubling to read about how difficult we’ve made it for animals to live in the world, but also encouraging to see how people are solving the issues in many places. Making greener spaces. Discouraging animals from living off garbage, while leaving them alone to live their lives otherwise. Building wildlife bridges or tunnels so they can safely cross highways. I learned quite a few new things- didn’t know before that jungle crows are such a problem in Tokyo (one stopped a bullet train for several hours when its nest on a power station caused an electrical shortage!) I didn’t know that crows are afraid of bees- the city encouraged urban beekeeping as a way to discourage crow numbers. I had no idea that some bat guano is purple- I’m guessing from the fruit they eat. Fun read with a lot of information, and just the right balance of detail for kids (I think).

Borrowed from the public library.

Rating: 3/5
64 pages, 2014

by Dr. Michael Fox

Lovely little book about the family life of wolves. Part of it is story, following one pup from birth to adulthood as it learns life skills, how to stay safe, hunting with the pack etc- all the usual stuff. Interjected are explanations about wolf behavior and ecology, so it\’s very educational as well. The little wolves grow and play, although one dies young from a disease. This book has a lot more about their intimate social lives- showing how the interactions form their bonds and organize their place in the pack. The young wolves encounter threats from a bald eagle, a wolverine and porcupine (seems to be the classic encounter in any book about young wild animals). They learn to catch mice and grasshoppers on their own, and are schooled in hunting caribou by their parents. I thought for once this would be a story just about the (relatively) peaceful lives of the animals, but man does make an appearance at the end- the wolf pack is hounded by hunters using airplanes. Some are shot and left to die. The ending is a plea for wolves to be protected, pointing out their role in keeping populations of caribou and other prey animals healthy, and a little bit about conservation work. Of course the book is dated- it hopes for example that wolves will someday be re-introduced to Yellowstone (which has now occurred).  The illustrations by Charles Fracé are very nice.

As I read this book immediately after Cry Wild, I couldn\’t help notice the differences between a few very similar scenes. In both stories the young wolf pups find a porcupine, but in this case the parent warned them from approaching, and later they came across a dead one and found out how sharp the quills were against their curious noses, so escaped injury. In both books one pup dies very young, and the mother\’s reaction is opposite. In Cry Wild the mother wolf anxiously licked and tended the dead pup, trying to coax it to nurse again and finally when they all moved to a new den, simply left the body behind. Here in The Wolf, as soon as the dead pup ceases moving, the mother apparently no longer recognizes it as her young, and matter-of-factly eats the body.

I wonder which depiction is more accurate. I suppose they both could be, if the wolf learned how to react to the situation according to what wolves around it normally did?

Rating: 3/5                96 pages, 1973

Tracking Wolves in the Wild
by Sylvia A. Johnson and Alice Aamodt

For a juvenile non-fiction book about wolves, this one is pretty thorough. It details how wolves live in the wild, their social structure and pack life, how the pups are raised, what they eat, hunting methods, territory defense and so on. Also conflicts with humans, some folklore and misconceptions about wolves, and how radio-tracking is used to study them (thus the subtitle, which I found a bit odd because it\’s only one short chapter at the very end that discusses this). It\’s basic, but really informative for all that. I recognized most of the photographs. I think I\’ve seen them before in some older edition of National Geographic.

Rating: 3/5                96 pages, 1985

by Joanne Ryder

I picked up this book for my seven-year-old. She\’s never quite as keen on animal stories as I was at her age (still am). I also found for her a book about a bear cub, and a more fanciful one about a crow family (which I might review here later). Tried to read Snail in the Woods as a bedtime story, but my kid was grossed out by hearing about slime and snails eating fungus and how they can retract their eyeballs back into their heads through their feelers; she refused to finish it. So I read the book myself. It\’s very simple text, decent monochromatic pictures, about the life of a land snail. Hatches from an egg, eats its own eggshell, crawls around seeking shelter and food. Estivating when there is no moisture. Avoiding getting eaten by shrews (more drawings of shrews in this one book than I\’ve ever seen before!), mice, birds, millipedes and other predators purely by luck. (My kid thought the millipede looked like a monster. It surely is to a tiny snail). Biggest event in the story is a flood, which some snails escape by crawling higher on trees and shrubs, and our snail gets carried downstream on a log. Finds a new home, finds a mate, crawls around more, lays eggs which will hatch in spring. Nice little book, if your kid wants to learn about how snails live.

Rating: 3/5               62 pages, 1979

Exploring the Mind of a Mollusk
by Sy Montgomery

This \’Scientist in the Field\’ book was more in-depth than the previous one, and I enjoyed it more. The chapters detail how the author accompanied a team of scientists who were studying the eating habits of octopuses around the island of Moorea. For the duration of her visit they actually spent most of their time looking for octopuses to be their study subjects- they\’re very difficult to find, being excellent at camouflage and hiding in small spaces. Then it all fell into place and on the last day of her trip, they were suddenly finding octopus all over the place. So a lot of the information about octopus in this book is side notes and explanations, but it\’s fascinating regardless. (She mentions briefly the encounters with octopus in public aquariums described in The Soul of an Octopus). The part about how octopus change color (and skin texture) to blend with their surroundings is especially cool. There\’s a lot about other animals sharing the same ocean habitat, as well. And for some reason this book reminded me of those I\’ve read by Eugenie Clark.

Borrowed from the public library.

Rating: 4/5            72 pages, 2015

DISCLAIMER:

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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