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. 

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Book Review: 'Answering 911: Life in the Hot Seat' by Caroline Burau

✰✰✰ Have you ever wondered about who is on the other end of the line when you dial 911? What does it take to be the calm in the storm when faced with emergencies? Author Caroline Burau answers these questions and more as she tells it like it is by sharing stories of life in the hot seat. On a daily basis, emergency dispatchers across the country alternate between periods of boredom and chaotic activity. As first responders, dispatchers must be prepared to handle anything from reports of theft to multiple car accidents to horrific shootings to delivering a baby.

While all jobs have challenges, life as an emergency dispatcher can require sacrifice and perseverance, grit and assertiveness. The call centers are open 24/7, including holidays, and shifts can vary. Burau discuss the challenges of learning a new job while raising a daughter as well. She is also very candid about her previous drug addiction and how that influenced her desire to help people.

Readers will feel as if they are along for the ride as they experience the highs and lows of a job that few people think about, but depend upon when they are in trouble. 
The Bottom Line: Burau’s book is a fast-paced look at the complex job of being an emergency dispatcher. As a former journalist, Burau’s writing is brutally honest, easy to read, and sometimes humorous. The anecdotes provide an inside look at what it’s like to be in the hot seat with lives depending on you. Recommended for anyone considering a career in law enforcement and rescue work. 
Book Club Notes: As a group we had lots to say about this book. Some of us really enjoyed it, while others really didn't. Nonetheless, everyone had an opinion. We agreed that this is a tough job, and not everyone is suited for the pressures of being an emergency dispatcher. Most of us have used the service with varying experiences. Getting to read about emergencies from a first person perspective was interesting. The chapters were mostly short and easy to read. However, a few of us didn't like the choppy writing style. Burau talks a lot about the frustration of not getting to know the end of people's stories, and we agreed. We wanted to know the ends of the stories as well. Finally, we all learned the importance of knowing where you are at all times.

On a scale of 1 to 5 (with 5 being the highest), members rated the book from 2 - 4 with an average of 3. Recommended for book clubs looking for a short, yet engaging, read. There was plenty to discuss within the pages of this book.
This book did not include a discussion guide. Thus, I took the time to come up with questions to provide structure for our discussion. Since these questions might be useful to other groups, I have included them below. The questions are divided into categories which suited our group. 

For the reader:  
  • Before reading this book, did you have any understanding of what being a dispatcher is like? Did you think it would be easy? How have your impressions changed?
  • All of the calls are different. Would that kind of work appeal to you? Why or why not? 
  • Imagine you are in the “hot seat.” How would you deal with it?
  • Was there a story from the book that made an impression on you?
  • Were there any parts of the book that made you stop reading?
  • This is basically a book about helping people. Does anyone have a job helping people? What does it mean to you to be able to help others?
  • Have you ever called 911? Please share your experience.
About Burau: 
  • Burau shares her past about being a drug addicted teen. How did this influence her decision to become a dispatcher?
  • How did becoming a mother and a dispatcher at the same time affect the author? In each role she worries: “What if I make a mistake & someone gets hurt?”  Plus, the 2 roles continually step on each other. 71
  • She wonders: “Maybe parenting is something you’re either good at or you’re just not.” 73      Are parenting skills something you are born with or something you learn?
  • She says,  “I was also haunted by the idea that what you did or didn’t do in high school would absolutely shape who you became in adulthood.” 20                Do you agree?
  • Her brother was hyperactive. That was his word. Growing up Burau didn’t know how to define herself. She didn’t have a word. 19     Which word would you choose to describe her? How would you define yourself growing up? And now?
  • Burau wants this job to be her calling. 35       Discuss what it means to have a calling. 
About the Job: 
  • Do you consider dispatchers to be first responders?
  • What are some of the qualities that would make someone a good dispatcher?
  • By taking the call, she becomes involved. Discuss the emotional toll of being involved.
  • Discuss almost never getting to know the end of the story. P. 114
  • Discuss NO debriefing opportunities for the dispatchers.
  • Discuss the complexity of the job: multiple screens, giving first aid, gathering information, dispatching, etc
  • How does new technology change the job? (This book was written in 2006.) Also, consider there are fewer land lines and more cell phones now. How does this complicate the job?
  • What do you think of regional dispatch centers compared to local?
  • Discuss her relationships with the other dispatchers.
  • Discuss Kristen. The other dispatchers fear her. The cops, who depend on her, respect her. Kristen has been there 30+ years. “I wonder if it was a conscious decision on her part, or just a slow, steady slipping away of the years. 107            Do you think the author misjudged Kristen? Have you ever misjudged anyone?
  • Discuss the personal sacrifices of working this type of job. For example, the challenges of raising a child while on shift duty.
  • Do SASGs or Wannabes help or hurt the police?
  • Talk about EMD (emergency medical dispatch).
  • Burau notes that on the job: “Not only is there no way to make everyone happy, it’s nearly impossible to make anyone happy.” 150     Is this true in other situations as well?
Other Questions: 
  • She asks, “Why are we so hesitant to act on anyone’s behalf but our own?” 149 And if you knew something was happening in your neighborhood, would you call home? 85
  • Discuss why domestics are the most dangerous calls they take. 142
  • She notes: Sometimes “victims of mid- to low-level crimes are more irritable than victims of high-level or violent crime. They have had more time to think about how badly they’ve been wronged.  They don’t get enough validation from anyone around them about how badly they’ve been wronged.” 192                            Do you agree?
  • One day someone makes light of death. It bothers the author. 124 Would it bother you?
  • She is dismayed that “…sometimes I find myself taking a certain tone with people that I know I would hate if I were on the other end of it.” 153        Has this happened to you? On either end? How did you deal with it?
  • Discuss the writing style.
  • Discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the book.
  • Rate the book from 1 – 5 and share why you did or didn’t enjoy it. 

Details: Answering 911: Life in the Hot Seat by Caroline Burau. Paperback published by Borealis Books in 2006. 206 p. ISBN: 978-0-87351-602-0 

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Book Review: 'Hero of the Empire' by Candice Millard

✰✰✰✰½ Leader. Power. Strength. And Optimism. These are all words associated with one of the world’s greatest leaders of all time, Winston Churchill. However, there was a time when words to describe him might have included: Arrogant. Conceited. Entitled. And spoiled rich kid.

When Churchill was just 24, he was completely convinced that he was destined to become the Prime Minister of England. But, no one else thought so. Although Churchill lost his first election by a landslide, he was not one to give up. He knew that in order to achieve his lofty goal, he must excel on the battlefield.

As a war correspondent, Churchill arrived in South Africa in 1899 to cover the Boer War. Only 2 weeks later, he was captured and held as a prisoner of warWhile others simply accepted their fate, Churchill dreamed of freedom, and he pulled off a daring escape. All ALONE with just 4 slabs of chocolate, his wits, and lots of luck, Churchill crossed hundreds of miles of enemy territory to freedom.

Along the way Winston Churchill evolved from privileged, conceited youth to respected world leader. How was this possible? In the words of Winston Churchill, “Attitude is a little thing that makes a BIG difference.”

The Bottom Line: From the author of The River of Doubt and Destiny of the Republic comes the true story of Winston Churchill’s road to fame and heroism. Once again, Candice Millard has woven together an epic adventure filled with danger, courage, lucky breaks, and never-ending optimism. Highly recommended for history buffs and readers who enjoy biographies.

Details: Hero of the Empire: The Boer War, a Daring Escape, and the Making of Winston Churchill by Candice Millard. Hardcover published by Doubday in 2016. 416 p. ISBN: 978-0-385-53573-1