Monday, January 21, 2019

Painted bouquet

For me, the new year means a chance to try out some new crafts. I've messed around with watercolor paint previously, of course, but this is the first time I added ink into the mix. It has a few issues, places where the paint pooled in weird ways, but I kind of like how this turned out. It's a combination I'll try again.

Friday, January 18, 2019

Book review - Song for a Whale

Title: Song for a Whale
Author: Lynne Kelly
Genre: realistic fiction
Similar books: Fleabrain Loves Franny by Joanne Rocklin
                      The Danger Box by Blue Balliett
utterly charming

Summary (provided by publisher): From fixing the class computer to repairing old radios, twelve-year-old Iris is a tech genius. But she's the only deaf person in her school, so people often treat her like she's not very smart. If you've ever felt like no one was listening to you, then you know how hard that can be.
When she learns about Blue 55, a real whale who is unable to speak to other whales, Iris understands how he must feel. Then she has an idea: she should invent a way to "sing" to him! But he's three thousand miles away. How will she play her song for him?
Full of heart and poignancy, this affecting story by sign language interpreter Lynne Kelly shows how a little determination can make big waves.

My opinion: The metaphor here is pretty obvious: Iris and Blue 55 are the same. They are caught between two worlds, neither of which really understand them. Iris learns from Blue to keep trying to connect with others who seem fundamentally different from her. Blue learns from Iris that persistence pays off, that someone will provide you with a reason to hope. The other, subtler, message is that there's no such thing as perfect understanding, that sometimes close to the same frequency has to be good enough and everyone has to put in a little extra effort. This is a beautiful, well written story with a compelling plot and a healthy does of science masterfully mixed in. The climax is a bit fantastic but doesn't diminish the beauty of the rest of the book.

More information: Song for a Whale releases February 5.
Advanced Reader Copy provided by NetGalley.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Graphic novel spotlight - Asterix

the Asterix series by Rene Goscinny

Asterix is considered a classic of French comics (not terribly unlike Tintin is to the Belgians). And with good reason. These comics deftly combine humor, action, and magic in an easily digestible package. The stories can be understood and enjoyed at a surface level by late elementary school readers and each book sits around 60 pages, the sweet spot for kids just getting interested in graphic novels. When viewed by older readers, one begins to realize the depth of the humor. Many of the names are puns and there are a number of cultural and topical references that will be missed by young readers. It's not the most sophisticated series out there but it's a solid choice when you're looking for something other than capes for your young readers.


Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Non-fiction book review - A Win for Women

A Win For Women by Brandon Terrell

Having grown up in the 90's, I was vaguely aware that the "Battle of the Sexes" had been a thing. If pressed, I might have been able to tell you that Billie Jean King beat some guy in a tennis match and that it was somehow related to the existence of sports teams for girls. I had never heard the details, and that's what we get in this book: a brief overview of the details for young readers. We learn about the history of both players, that Bobby Riggs was an aging champ while Billie Jean King was a rising star. We learn about the previous challenge, the "Mother's Day Massacre", in which Riggs beat the top female player at the time. And we learn how Riggs basically shamed King into accepting his challenge, turning the entire match into something of a media circus. We learn that more people watched the Battle of the Sexes than the Superbowl that year. And we learn exactly how King beat Riggs, how she had trained for the match and basically wore him down on the court. We learn how this one match changed the entire landscape of sports. And most importantly, I think, we learn that there were no long term hard feelings between the players. If the pre-match events were spectacle and trash talk, post match was the epitome of good sportsmanship. Terrell accomplishes all of this in just 32 pages. A great choice for any young reader, sports fan or no.   
Advanced Reader Copy provided by NetGalley

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Book review - Come Find Me

Title: Come Find Me
Author: Megan Miranda
Genre: mystery
Similar books: The Telling by Alexandra Sirowy
                      Evidence of Things Not Seen by Lindsey Lane
the thinking person's mystery

Summary (provided by publisher): After surviving an infamous family tragedy, sixteen-year-old Kennedy Jones has made it her mission to keep her brother's search through the cosmos alive. But then something disturbs the frequency on his radio telescope--a pattern registering where no signal should transmit.
In a neighboring county, seve.nteen-year-old Nolan Chandler is determined to find out what really happened to his brother, who disappeared the day after Nolan had an eerie premonition. There hasn't been a single lead for two years, until Nolan picks up an odd signal--a pattern coming from his brother's bedroom.
Drawn together by these strange signals--and their family tragedies--Kennedy and Nolan search for the origin of the mysterious frequency. But the more they uncover, the more they believe that everything's connected--even their pasts--as it appears the signal is meant for them alone, sharing a message that only they can understand. Is something coming for them? Or is the frequency warning them about something that's already here? 

My opinion: Miranda jumps right in with both feet: sensational murder, a missing teen, and the suggestion of ghosts and/or aliens. She takes us on a long, meandering journey of discovery with very few conclusions. Just a few facts, really. And that's not a censure. For another author this would be, at most, a short story. In Miranda's masterful hands we get a compelling journey of self discovery. The self destruction and invisibility that come along with being the sibling of a missing person or a murder suspect. These are teens looking to fill holes in their personal lives and get answers for their families. One searches in science, the other in the supernatural. And these explorations are not surface. They throw themselves in whole-heartedly and their explorations are given complex explanation. The resolution of the two mysteries is a little thin, more explanation given to the science of the signal than the mysteries, but that results in a denouement that feels real to life.
More information: Come Find Me releases January 29.
Advanced Reader Copy provided by NetGalley.

Monday, January 14, 2019

The best kind of upcycling

I spotted this little project on Pinterest a while back and have been looking for a chance to make one. I finally emptied out a bottle that was not only the right size but has a great image on it.

I can't wait to carry things in my Spider-Man pouch. 

Friday, January 11, 2019

Book review - Freya and Zoose

Title: Freya & Zoose
Author: Emily Butler
Genre: adventure
Similar books: Edison: The Mystery of the Missing Mouse Treasure by Torben Kuhlmann
                      Chickenhare by Chris Grine
not as light hearted and innocent as it appears

Summary (provided by publisher): Freya has always craved--and feared--adventure. Traipsing all over the world is simply not what dignified rockhopper penguins do. But when she hears about Captain Salomon August Andrée's hot-air balloon expedition to the North Pole, Freya packs her copy of Hints to Lady Travellers and hops on board.
Only moments after leaving land, Freya discovers a fellow stowaway! Meet Zoose, the scrappy, uncouth mouse whose endless wisecracks and despicable manners make him a less-than-ideal travel companion.
When the hot-air balloon is forced to land in the Arctic, these polar opposites must learn how to get along. Their very survival depends on it.

My opinion: At the start, this seems like a fairly standard, innocent adventure story. Freya and Zoose are complete opposites who, through random mischance, must find a way to get along. At first, it's just a matter of more pleasant travel. Then, through misadventure and near death experience, they learn to work together and even appreciate one another's company. This is all cute, a touch quirky, but entirely expected of a book for young readers. It takes increasingly dark turns as they travel deeper into the arctic and their human counterparts begin to fail. While the ending has a hopeful tone, it's not the tidy, positive conclusion you'd expect from a book for small children.

More information: Freya & Zoose releases January 29.
Advanced Reader Copy provided by NetGalley.