Just the right size

The title says it all: Just the Right Size: Why Big Animals are Big and Little Animals are Little.

Just the Right Size by Nicola Davies

Just the Right Size by Nicola Davies

This great science picture book explores the size of living things from microbes to whales and the factors that influence their size. There is math (length, surface area, cross section, volume, and mass) to explain the Big Thing, Little Thing (BTLT) rule, but wait, there’s more! Flight, surface tension, walking on walls, strength, digestion, respiration, circulation, habitat, temperature, and migration, and communication all come into play. I recommend this book for everyone, especially those who can share it with nine to twelve year old children.

If this book sounds too serious, read it for the superhero debunking, giant spiders that break their legs, and whale guts.

One Year in Coal Harbor

One Year in Coal Harbor by Polly Horvath

One Year in Coal Harbor by Polly Horvath

While the cover art for One Year in Coal Harbor far surpasses that on Everything on a Waffle, I liked the later more. I’m not sure if it was the book or my mood, so if you enjoy Waffle, give Coal Harbor a whirl. Here is a favorite passage of mine.

“You can’t replace one dog with another any more than you can replace one person with another, but that’s not to say you shouldn’t get more dogs and people in your life. Even though no one you love is replaceable, you need a dog for the dog place in the heart, I decided, and a child for the child place, if you have a child place in your heart, not everyone does, or a dog place, either, I guess.  I’ve known people who have a ferret place, to which I can only say I am thankful I was not born with one of those.”

Everything on a Waffle by Polly Horvath

Everything on a Waffle by Polly Horvath

Out of the Easy

Out of the Easy

Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys

Here is my latest book recommendation: Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys. This young adult historical fiction follows seventeen-year-old Josie as she navigates life in New Orleans as the uncherished daughter of a prostitute. Josie is good in school; wants to pursue higher education; and needs to get out of the city that has low expectations for her. Unlikely friends and supporters can help her on her journey, but can’t protect her from her hindersome mother. A murder mystery further complicates the scene…

While prostitution, a brothel, and murder are central figures in this novel, they aren’t sensational or explicit in detail. I would recommend this book for mature young adults and adults.

p.s. I was going to review more books, but have found that I just don’t have the desire to review everything. I do add tags and ratings in LibraryThing, so if you are really curious you can follow me there.

Autumn reads

One of the thing I love about early autumn sunsets is more reading time.

Rickshaw Girl by Mitali Perkins

Rickshaw Girl by Mitali Perkins

Rickshaw Girl focuses on the life of Naima, a Bangladeshi girl with a talent for alpana patterns. Perkins writes that “Girls and Women paint these geometrical or floral patterns on the floor during celebrations and holidays. They used crushed rice power to outline the design, and decorate with colored chalk, vermilion, flower petals, wheat, or lentil powder. Some designs are passed down from generation to generation for hundreds of years.” In this fictional, yet realistic, story for children Naima no longer attends school because her family can not afford it. As a girl, her options for earning money are very restricted. Beautiful charcoal illustrations are accompanied by a glossary and author’s note that complement the text.

Based on my limited understanding, alpana is equivalent to rangoli. Many beautiful rangoli designs can be seen in southern India.

Rangoli design for Pongal harvest festival

Rangoli design for Pongal harvest festival
Bellary, Karnataka, India
January 2010

Rangoli design for Pongal harvest festival Bellary, Karnataka, India January 2010

Rangoli design for Pongal harvest festival
Bellary, Karnataka, India
January 2010

Painted concrete near Gudur, Andhra Pradesh, India January 2010

Painted concrete
near Gudur, Andhra Pradesh, India
January 2010

Many readers choose books that reflect themselves: similar cultures, activities, or dreams. I challenge you to read something outside of your normal scope. One of the greatest pleasures of reading is being able to experience the life of someone or something different that yourself.


The Giver by Lois Lowry

The Giver by Lois Lowry

When I first started working as a librarian, about nine years ago, I read 1994 Newbery Award winner,  The Giver by Lois Lowry. It was my way of reintroducing myself to children’s literature and reading a book that is often classroom reading. This dystopia is suitable for children, about grade five through adulthood. Over time I read the companion books Gathering Blue and Messenger. The recognition of adversity, use of primitive techniques, and escape appealed to me. In 2012 the fourth book of the quartet, Son, was published. Of the four books, it was least appealing to me because it too neatly tied up the story lines. In addition, the narrator of the audiobook had a “whispery” voice that I found off putting. What it did do, was make me want to re-read The Giver, to revisit it and regain the details. My recommendation: if you haven’t read The Giver, do so. It fits in well with the current popularity of dystopias such as Divergent and The Hunger Games. By the way, if you are a Divergent fan, the conclusion of the trilogy, Allegiant will be released on October 22.

One Year in Coal Harbor by Polly Horvath

One Year in Coal Harbor by Polly Horvath

The children’s book, One Year in Coal Harbor by Polly Horvath, recently caught my attention because the cover features a girl sitting in a tree stand. I do judge books by their covers. The book is set in the Pacific Northwest, one of my favorite regions! It is the second book in the Primrose Squarp series, which lead me to read the first book, Everything on a Waffle, which is good because it is a funny story but has an unappealing cover.

Everything on a Waffle by Polly Horvath

Everything on a Waffle by Polly Horvath

I was going to quote a funny passage from the book right here, and thought that it would be easy, however the funny passages have simply disappeared now that I’m looking for them. You will just have to read the book yourself. The funny stuff is in there. Even though the Pacific Northwest setting isn’t featured as much as I would hope, the book is a good one. It features a hopeful girl, her community, and imperfect but lovable characters. Now I’m looking forward to the book with the appealing cover!

Happy reading!

Summer reading has started!

Summer reading for me has started with a book hangover.* Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein was almost a one-sitting book for me. The focus of the book is a friendship between daring young women in England during World War II. Men have been shipped out to fight and women have new opportunities, including becoming pilots to move aircraft and crews into position in England. Since the book focuses on war secrets, I won’t revel any more.

Would I recommend it? Yes… for adventure loving young adults and adults, this book will keep you on the edge of your seat. No… for those who don’t want to (or can’t) read about the atrocities of war. Mom, this is not a book for you.

Book "Code Name Verity" on a shelfIn other news: I wish I had possession of an evil-eye to kill buckthorn with a glance, rather than cutting and dabbing it. June is Invasive Species Awareness Month. Go kill something invasive and unwanted.

*Book hangover: The groggy, bleary-eyed feeling the day after staying up way too late reading a book that just can’t be put down.

In my book pile

I keep lists of books to read. The likely ones end up in my pile.

Pile of Books

Here’s my most recent pile: Damming the OsageEating DirtGreening VermontHoneycomb KidsIn Wildness is the Preservation of the WorldNiagara DigressionsNuclear RouletteThe Greening of Oz; and The Last Atoll. This pile is only partly by my choice. I agreed to review nonfiction books about ecology and the environment. The reviews are due by May 15! I cleared my started pile and redefined it with the books to be reviewed. I did keep Into Thick Air: Biking to the Bellybutton of Six Continents just in case I needed to clear my head while reviewing.

I started the review process by looking at the pictures in In Wildness is the Preservation of the WorldGreening Vermont; and Damming the Osage. The photos are great! Without them I may have become overwhelmed by the process. (I’ll come back to the text later.) Then I began reading Eating Dirt which doesn’t have any pictures, but is very readable. I hope they all are this appealing.  Wish me luck!

Stitch a little stitch

I’ve been working on embroidery for at least a year. Here are some of my recent projects. These flowers are adapted from a design by Clare Youngs in the book Scandinavian Needlecraft. It was noted how similar this design is to some Ojibwa designs.

Flowers embroidered on a towel

This Día de los Muertos (or Day of the Dead) inspired design is my own. The design was sketched during a Wisconsin Library Association conference. (I contend that I can listen better when my hands are busy with a repetitive task.)

Embroidered Day of the Dead Skull

I was pleased with the results. The first attempt was freehand on the towel, which didn’t please me very much. Part of the problem was that the hoop was quite a bit smaller than the design, so I couldn’t see it all at once while I was working on it. Perhaps I will “fix” it someday by adding some pretty brains, but now I am interested in other projects.

Embroidered Trial Skull

Here’s another freehand, doodle design. I would like it better if the flowers had been based on actual plants.

Embroidered Square Flowers

The tree design was adapted from one by Aimée Ray in Doodle Stitching: The Motif Collection. There is a design to inspire almost anyone in this fun book.

tree small

An upcycling project that I had been considering was to make a rug from old t-shirts. The process of cutting the strips held me back, even though I use a rotary cutter. Enter one of my favorite thrift stores, The Clothes Closet of Hettinger, North Dakota. I purchased two latch hook rug canvases, fabric strips, and a latch hook tool for one dollar! One rug was started, with a fabric strip for each “hole” in the canvas. It was bunched-up, but I thought that might be due the small size of the started rug. I added more strips. It didn’t get better. I took apart the rug and washed the fabric strips in a lingerie bag. The washing made the fabric curl up and easier to latch to the canvas. The Crafty Woman blog has detailed instructions on how to make a jersey rug and spacing the strips made the rug much easier to hook and it laid flat right away. The fabric strips that I used are 3/4″ wide by 6″ long.

T-shirt Rug

A project that I want to start is re-covering the cracked vinyl covers on four kitchen chair seats. Jenny suggested that I should cover the fabric with a clear vinyl so that they are easy to clean. What a great idea! If you have any suggestions before I start, please let me know. Here’s the fabric that I picked up  for the chairs at another favorite thrift store, Waupaca Thrift Store.

Chair Seat Fabric

While I was writing this post, I was listening to an audiobook until it got too difficult to write and focus on the story. Turns out that I can fold the laundry, but not compose, while listening. The book is The Case of the Deadly Butter Chicken by Tarquin Hall, featuring the fictional private investegator Vish Puri. Besides the great title, the book provides a great description of contemporary India, detailed characters, and a good mystery without being too cozy or too violent. I highly recommend it to mystery readers. If you are a Wisconsin resident with a library card in good standing, you may download the audiobook through Wisconsin’s Digital Library. There is no additional cost for Wisconsin residents to check out this book, since it has already been paid for through taxes.

Poetry soothes

Media relaxing in the Sweet Woodruff

Media relaxing in the Sweet Woodruff

I’m in one of those moods where very little of what I read suits me now. Young adult dystopias promised lots of plot and delivered in Insurgent (the second book in the Divergent trilogy) and The Drowned Cities (companion book to Ship Breaker), however both of them were darker than what I want right now.

What looked like promising adult fiction, was simply disappointing. Garden Spells could have been fun light reading, but the unabridged version I listened to was too predictable. A Reliable Wife looked interesting, but I didn’t care for the characters, who were very obsessed with sex. I need to be able to like at least one of the characters.

The young adult realistic fiction Try Not to Breathe was good, with likable and very human characters.

What really hit the spot was Billy Collins, reading his own poetry in Billy Collins Live: A Performance at the Peter Norton Symphony Space. Five stars! I would recommend that you try it, even if you don’t like poetry.

Teaching resources

Colleen Kessler compiles a list of free resources for elementary teachers in this book covering major topic areas including literacy, mathematics, science, social studies, health, physical education, art, and music in her book, Free Resources for Elementary Teachers. Each of these topic areas forms a chapter of the book. A heading with a website URL and brief description highlight each resource the author has selected is the primary content. Each chapter also includes a section of frugal fun activities, tips, and games in the topic. Overall, the book provides a quick list of ideas for a elementary teacher to explore. Other content are chapters on teachers’ blogs and home school blogs. Essentially, this book provides a list of websites with free educational resources. Due to this type of content, the book will have a short lifespan.
Providing additional information about each website in a visual format would increase the functionality of the content. For example, the information could include: if the content is for the teacher, student, or both; the type of website sponsor (non-profit, commercial); the amount of advertising on the website and if is visible to the student; and the quality of information provided.
Reviewed from a copy received from Prufrock Press Inc through LibraryThing Early Reviewers.