Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Book Review: 'The Red Bandanna' by Tom Rinaldi

✰✰✰✰✰ What would you do if you knew this was the last hour of your life? Where would you be? Who would you hug? On 9/11/2001, two planes flew into the twin towers of the World Trade Center. Many people had to make a decision: Wait for help or try to escape? Every second counted.

Years earlier on a Sunday morning before church, a father gave his young son two handkerchiefs: a white one for his suit pocket for show, and a red one for his back pocket for the blow. As the child grew up, he became an athlete, a volunteer firefighter, and a college graduate. He even landed a coveted job on the 104th floor of the South tower of the World Trade Center. Throughout it all, he dreamed of becoming a firefighter. And throughout it all, he kept a red bandanna in his back pocket.

When the twin towers fell, the young man was nowhere to be found. No one knew what had happened to him. His family searched for months. Just when they thought they might never find him, stories began to surface about a mysterious young man. Through the smoke, flames, injuries, and panic, survivors remembered a young man with a red bandannaThese survivors said that they only lived because of him.

No one knew his name. No one knew who he was, but this young man, identified by a simple piece of red cloth, chose to help rather than flee. He could have gotten out and saved himself, but instead he guided these strangers to safety. Not once, but twice.

This is the story about how a red bandanna became a symbol of courageThis is the story of one young man who ran towards dangerHe was simply doing what he felt was right. On that fateful day his dream of becoming a firefighter came true. He never made it out, but he lives on in the people he saved.

In the last hour of his life, twenty-four year old Welles Crowther made the fearless decision to help others. What would you do?

The Bottom Line: This was the best book I read last year. I highly recommend it to everyone. It would be a great pick for high schools and colleges. Also, book clubs will want to consider this inspirational biography.

Details: The Red Bandanna: A Life, A Choice, A Legacy by Tom Rinaldi. Hardcover published by Penguin Press in 2016. 224 p. ISBN: 978-1-59420-677-1

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Book Review: 'Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil' by John Berendt

✰✰✰✰ When author John Berendt discovered super saver flights in the early 1980s, it opened a whole new world for him. Escaping the hustle and bustle of Manhattan, Berendt embarked on frequent journeys to the isolated town of Savannah, Georgia. He quickly observed that the two cities are nothing alike. As he adjusted to his new home away from home, Berendt met a wide array of characters ranging from society ladies to city leaders, from a voodoo priestess to a drag queen. The charming southern town certainly had more than its fair share of eccentric residents.

So when international antiques dealer, Jim Williams, was accused of murder, naturally the whole town was abuzz with gossip. Over the course of four trials, everyone had an opinion, but what really happened? Part travelogue and part true-crime story with a twist, this book definitely packs a punch.

The Bottom Line: With layers of intrigue, lots of eccentric characters, and a series of trials, the well-mannered southern city of Savannah becomes the focus of this fascinating read. Recommended for adventurous readers interested in true crime, travel, history, and social issues. This captivating story is one you won’t be able to put down. NOTE: This book has been on banned book lists in the past. Thus, due to the graphic scenes and the use of profanity, it may not be appropriate for students or sensitive readers.

Book Club Notes:  This quarter we had a smaller group in attendance due to vacations, but our discussion was not diminished a bit. Some of us had taken the time to watch the movie as well as read the book. We noted how different the book was from the film. Sometimes that’s a good thing, but sometimes it’s not. One member informed us that The Lady Chablis had played herself in the film. I had not realized this little bit of trivia. Awesome!

On a rating scale from 1 – 5, ratings varied from 3 to 5, with an average of 4.25. General comments included that this was an entertaining, quick read. Members enjoyed the quirky characters. We also enjoyed listening to the travel stories of those who have visited Savannah. Those of us who have not yet been had the pleasure of visiting Savannah would definitely like to go there someday. Overall, this was a great pick for our group, and we highly recommend it for other book clubs.

There are several resources for discussion questions available on online including LitLovers and ReadingGroupGuides. However, there was so much to talk about; we really didn’t rely on the questions.

Details: Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil: A Savannah Story by John Berendt. Paperback published by Vintage Books in 1999. 400 p. ISBN: 978-0-679-75152-6  

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Book Review: 'Pennybaker School is Headed for Disaster' by Jennifer Brown

✰✰✰ Thomas Fallgrout is an ordinary kid, whose hobby just happens to be magic. So when he gets accepted to Pennybaker Academy for the Uniquely Gifted, everyone is surprised. It seems his knack for magic is an unique gift. Life at the new schools takes some getting used, of course, but Thomas manages to make a few new friends. Just when he starts to fit in, the statue of the school's most beloved math teacher disappears. Naturally everyone points their finger at Thomas and his ability to do magic. Thomas insists he is innocent, but not even his parents believe him. It's up to Thomas to clear his name by relying on his magic skills and believing in himself.

The Bottom Line: This quick read for the middle school set focuses on diversity and finding your own special gift. Along the journey of solving the mystery, the main character must learn self-reliance and forgiveness. Just an average weekend read.

Details: Pennybaker School is Headed for Disaster by Jennifer Brown. Advance Reading Copy published by Bloomsburg in 2017. 320 p. ISBN: 978-1-68119-174-4

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Book Review: 'Tiny's Big Adventure' by Martin Waddell

✰✰✰✰✰ Tiny Mouse has never been to the wheat field before, but his sister, Katy Mouse, has. Together they scamper to the field. There are so many things Tiny has never seen before, but Katy knows what everything is. The two siblings are having a grand adventure, until Tiny gets lost amongst the stalks of wheat. What's this here? What's that over there? Suddenly everything seems scary. Luckily, it's Katy Mouse to the rescue.

The Bottom Line: This tiny tale of big adventure is a winner. Lawrence's detailed engravings are stunning and engaging. Little ones will have as much fun looking at the illustrations as they will listening to the story. The large print makes it easy to read for beginning readers. Highly recommended for children in grades Pre-K – 1 and for storytime.

Details: Tiny's Big Adventure written by Martin Waddell & illustrated by John Lawrence. Hardcover picture book published by Candlewick Press in 2004. 32 p. ISBN: 0-7636-2170-6 

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Book Review: 'Gifts of the Heart' by Patricia Polacco

✰✰✰✰ A family is spending one last holiday on the farm after their Gramma has died. With their mother working, their Grampa needs a little help looking after the kids. Kay Lamity arrives at their doorstep just in time. An eccentric and wise housekeeper, Kay sets the children straight when they have doubts about Santa.

When the children don't have enough money to purchase Christmas presents, Kay teaches them about the two types of presents: some you purchase and others come from the heart. With a little help from Kay, the children make gifts from the farm that everyone will treasure for a very long time.

The Bottom Line: This heartwarming tale of a family love and simple gifts is a treasure. The text and images harken back to a nostalgic time. Recommended holiday reading for kids ages 7 – 10.

Details: Gifts of the Heart written & illustrated by Patricia Polacco. Hardcover picture book published by G.P. Putnam's Sons in 2013. 40 p. ISBN: 978-0-399-16094-3 

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Book Review: 'Little Bunny Finds Christmas' by Pirkko Vainio

✰✰✰✰ When four excited chickadees announce that it's Christmas, Little Bunny wonders what Christmas is. Before Little Bunny can ask the birds, they have already flown away. So Little Bunny sets out in search of the meaning Christmas. Along the way a deer, a wolf, an owl, and a bear join the journey. When they finally find the place, they discover that Christmas was everything they hoped for and more.

The Bottom Line: This modern retelling of the Christmas story is beautifully illustrated in soft wintry hues. With repeating phrases, the story builds as Little Bunny and his animal friends search for the meaning of Christmas. This highly recommended tale will quickly become a holiday favorite for little ones ages 3 – 7.

Details: Little Bunny Finds Christmas written & illustrated by Pirkko Vainio. Hardcover picture book published by NorthSouth in 2008. 32 p. ISBN: 978-0-7358-2221-4 

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Book Review: 'Santasaurus' by Niamh Sharkey

✰✰✰½ Three little dinosaurs just can't wait for Christmas. Ollie wants a dinobot. Molly wants a dinocycle. And Milo wants to meet Santasaurus and fly in his sleigh. On Christmas Eve everyone falls asleep in anticipation. Everyone, that is, except, Milo. In the dark, he hears something. Could it be sleigh bells? Milo creeps downstairs to find a big surprise waiting for him. Can you guess what it is? Check out this cute holiday tale and find out.

The Bottom Line: Illustrated in bright cheery oil paintings, Santasaurus is a colorful, holiday treat for little ones fond of dinosaurs. Enthusiastically recommended for seasonal story time or bedtime reading for kids ages 3 – 7.

Details: Santasaurus written & illustrated by Niamh Sharkey. Hardcover picture book published by Candlewick Press in 2004. 32 p. ISBN: 0-7636-2671-6 

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Book Review: 'Emily's Christmas Gifts' by Cindy Post Senning & Peggy Post

✰✰✰½ Emily loves everything about Christmas. She especially loves getting presents. Now that she's older, she loves giving presents too. There are lots of awesome presents you can wrap in pretty paper, but Emily knows there are other gifts too. Gifts of kindness, caring, sharing, and helping don't cost anything, and everyone is happy to receive them. As the holiday approaches, Emily's help and consideration are just what  everyone needs including Santa.

The Bottom Line: This humorously illustrated picture book shows kids that sometimes the best gifts are free. The authors present a fun approach to holiday etiquette that is appropriate for school or library storytime for kids ages 4 – 8. It includes a note to parents at the end about instilling good manners in your child during the holidays, and while this book is seasonal, the ideas for good manners can be used throughout the year.

Details: Emily's Christmas Gifts written by Cindy Post Senning & Peggy Post & illustrated by Steve Bjorkman. Hardcover picture book published by Collins in 2008. 32 p. ISBN: 978-0-06-111703-9

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Book Review: 'Reindeer Christmas' by Mark Kimball Moulton

✰✰✰✰ With Christmas just around the corner, two children and their grandma set out to feed the forest animals. In the winter storm they spot something shimmering, and they come across a cold and weary deer. As they help him into their warm home, the deer's magical powers seem to fade. However, Gram isn't worried. She knows that with food and rest, the deer will be fine, and she's right. By morning the deer is gone. When Christmas arrives the children are in for a big surprise. Santa notices everything, and he leaves a special gift for the children who helped a very special reindeer.

The Bottom Line: This heartwarming tale about helping others demonstrates that good things come to those who do good deeds. Soft watercolor, gouache, and ink illustrations add a homespun charm to this gentle wintry tale. Enthusiastically recommended for kids in grades Pre-K - 1.

Details: Reindeer Christmas written by Mark Kimball Moulton & illustrated by Karen Hillard Good. Hardcover picture book published by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers (A Paula Wiseman Book) in 2008. 40 p. ISBN: 978-1-4169-6108-6 

Monday, July 3, 2017

Book Review: 'The Year Without a Santa Claus' by Phyllis McGinley

✰✰✰½ Everyone needs a little vacation now and then, including Santa Claus. After delivering presents year after year, Santa is cranky and tired. He suddenly takes time off from giving.

As the other children cry, a little boy leads an effort to give presents to Santa Claus to lift his spirits. Soon gifts arrive from around the world to give Santa a Merry Christmas from the children. Overwhelmed by the outpouring of love, it's a sentiment Santa will never forget. And to this day Santa Claus continues to visit children on Christmas Eve.

The Bottom Line: The Year Without a Santa Claus was originally published in 1956. The classic text has been refreshed with colorful and lively illustrations in gouache by artist John Manders. Now a new generation of kids can enjoy this classic tale. Recommended seasonal reading for kids ages 6 – 9.

Details: The Year Without a Santa Claus written by Phyllis McGinley & illustrated by John Manders. Hardcover picture book published by Marshall Cavendish Children in 2010. 40 p. ISBN: 978-0-7614-5799-2 

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Book Review: 'Bartholomew's Blessing' by Stephanie S. Tolan

✰✰✰✰✰ Bartholomew mouse is one of God's tiniest creatures. He is used to being ignored by the other animals. So when an angel appears one bright night and invites Bartholomew to be blessed by the newborn prince, he is honored.

Wanting to bring something special for the baby, he picks up little treasures along the way. Unfortunately, Bartholomew arrives at the manger cold, wet, and empty-handed. He worries that the baby will ignore him too. But this is no ordinary baby, and the night is filled with many blessings.

The Bottom Line: This adorable retelling of the Christmas story from a mouse's point of view is a keeper. Illustrated in beautiful watercolors, this is a picture book you will read again and again with your little one. Highly recommended for holiday reading.

Details: Bartholomew's Blessing: A Christmas Story written by Stephanie S. Tolan & illustrated by Margie Moore. Hardcover picture book published by HarperCollins Publishers in 2004. 32 p. ISBN: 0-06-001198-X 

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Book Review: 'The Tiptoe Guide to Tracking Fairies' by Ammi-Joan Paquette

✰✰✰✰✰ Join the children in the book as they go exploring for fairies. Do you know where the fairies hide? Fairies can be everywhere if you only know where to look. This book teaches you about the tell-tale signs of fairies. Once you learn the signs, you and your friends can have a magical adventure searching for these delicate creatures in your own backyard.

The Bottom Line: This enchanting picture book features a colorful blend of artwork and photography. The text is engaging and encourages both children and the young at heart to discover the beauty of nature and the magic of possibilities. This book reminds me of the long, lazy, summer days of my childhood. Highly recommended for summertime reading for kids ages 4 – 7.

Details: The Tiptoe Guide to Tracking Fairies written by Ammi-Joan Paquette & illustrated by Christa Unzner. Hardcover picture book published by Tanglewood in 2009. 32 p. ISBN: 978-1-933718-20-0

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Book Review: 'A Surgeon in the Village' by Tony Bartelme

✰✰✰✰½ As a young child Dilan Ellegala was determined and driven. When he set out to become a doctor, he pursued the most challenging specialty. In fact, neurosurgery was what he fell in love with. Nevertheless, after a rigorous residency left him feeling exhaustedDilan went against tradition and took a six month break before beginning his new job.

Africa is where Dilan rested and healed. He also had the opportunity to do some easy brain surgeries. However, he wondered what would happen when he left. Who would help these people? There were no brain surgeons out in the African bush. That's when it dawned on him. There could be a brain surgeon available all the time if he taught someone to do these procedures. But who?

Dilan couldn't just teach anyone. It had to be someone special. A curious, assistant medical officer named Emmanuel Mayegga fit the bill. Dilan taught Mayegga, who taught another doctor, who taught another one. Something special had begun in Tanzania, something that would change the way medical mission work was done. 

The Bottom Line: Part biography, part love story, and part global health report, this easy to read book brings to light the plight of millions of people around the world who do not have access to quality medical care. With a worldwide shortage of doctors, especially surgeons, it is important find a new way to help those in need. This book makes a case for doctors teaching forward and establishing a system where these impoverished countries can help themselves instead of waiting for a handout. Highly recommended  for anyone interested in healthcare or considering a career in medicine. NOTE: This book contains graphic descriptions of medical conditions and procedures.

Details: A Surgeon in the Village: An American Doctor Teaches Brain Surgery in Africa by Tony Bartelme. Hardcover published by Beacon Press in 2017. 288 p. ISBN: 978-0-8070-4488-9 NOTE: I received a free copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This was made possible via the Early Reviewers Program at LibraryThing.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Book Review: 'The Inkblots: Hermann Rorschach, His Iconic Test, and the Power of Seeing' by Damion Searls

✰✰✰½ The inkblots are famous. Seen in advertising, print, and popular movies, it seems that just about everyone has heard of the Rorschach test. The test, created in 1921 to study thought disorder, was the brainchild of psychiatrist, Hermann Rorschach. Little was known about the fascinating man behind the test, until Damion Searls took the time to research both the biography of the man and the history of the test.

Rorschach was born of poverty in Switzerland in 1884. He would grow up to be intelligent, innovative, handsome, and driven. In his brief life, he accomplished more than most do in 80 years. Rorschach died shortly after creating his one-of-a-kind test. At the time Rorschach could not have forseen the impact his test would have on everything from college admissions to screening military soldiers. His test still influences the field of psychology even today.

The Bottom Line: This book is like two books in one: a biography of Hermann Rorschach and a history of the Rorschach test. I found the information about Herman Rorschach to be fascinating especially because he died in the prime of his life. Nevertheless, this was a slow read. Recommended for academic libraries serving both undergraduate and graduate students in psychology. Public libraries also serving college communities may consider purchasing as well. Note: This review was based on an uncorrected proof copy and the color plates were not included. 

Details: The Inkblots: Hermann Rorschach, His Iconic Test, and the Power of Seeing by Damion Searls. Uncorrected proof copy published by Crown in 2017. 416 p. ISBN:  978-0-8041-3654-9  NOTE: I received a free galley copy from Penguin Random House in exchange for an honest review. This was made possible by the Early Reviewers Program at LibraryThing.