Tuesday, 19 October 2021

Song of a Captive Bird

Finished October 19
Song of a Captive Bird by Jasmin Darznik

This novel is a fictionalized biography of Iranian poet Forugh Farrokhzad. The author had seen a poetry book of her mother's as a child and later became fascinated by not only the poetry of Forugh, but of the woman herself and her very unconventional life.
Forugh was born in Tehran, the third of seven children, and the daughter of a military officer. She pushed the boundaries on behaviour, trying to engage in the same activities as her brothers. She began writing poetry at a young age, partly to capture the attention and approval of her traditional father, poetry being a revered art in Iran. But as she grew into womanhood and her life became more circumscribed, she found a way out by marrying at the age of 16 to a cousin. But her urge to write continued and it led her to another life. 
Darznik explores this life, both the poet's inner life and drive to write poetry that broke the norms of her era and gender, and the outer life, as a divorcee, a woman who lived independently, and the mistress of a well-known film producer. 
Forugh comes to life here, with her passion and impetuousness, and her daring to follow her dreams. I enjoyed learning more about this poet and her legacy. 

Monday, 18 October 2021

What Strange Paradise

Finished October 18 
What Strange Paradise by Omar El Akkad

This book grabbed me and didn't let go. It's a short novel and a real page-turner. It starts with a scene on a beach on a Greek island, where bodies of refugees have washed ashore. Among them is a young boy, Amir, but he isn't dead, and when he rises, and sees people coming for him, he runs.
Following that scene, the story alternates with what led the boy to this place and what happens after he runs. In the before sequences, we see him and his family fleeing their home country of Syria and coming to Egypt, hoping to be accepted by a western country, and we see how he comes to be on a boat crossing the Mediterranean Sea and what happens on that boat. In the after sequences, we see him being found by a teenaged girl, and assisted. Vänna has a difficult home life and something about the boy and his vulnerability puts her in protective mode. As the two try to elude the soldiers looking for the boy, they make their way across the island, hoping for a way out. 
The characters of Amir and Vänna are well drawn, and you see their thoughts and their struggles, from Amir's uncertainty about his family's future and his confusion on the ship to Vänna's dissatisfaction with her life and her worry about Amir. The book is fast-moving and intense with some twists and surprises along the way. Highly recommended.

The Book Collectors

Finished October 16
The Book Collectors: A Band of Syrian Rebels and the Stories That Carried Them Through a War by Delphine Minoui, translated by Lara Vergnaud

The author, Delphine Minoui, is a journalist who has covered the Middle East, and lives in Istanbul. She also directed a documentary on the same subject as this book. During her work, she heard about a group who had created a library from books they found in the rubble of their town, Daraya. Daraya is a town outside of Damascus which fell under a siege in 2012 and became cut off from the outside world for four years. 
The young men who found the first batch of books and began actively collecting them in one place, where they built shelving and provided studying, reading, and meeting space, had a collection of fifteen thousand books within a month of their start. The collection had range, from poetry to plays, history to science. 
First Minoui tracked down one of the library's founders, Ahmad Muaddamani, twenty-three, who was studying civil engineering before the war. He told her the story of the library, but also the story of this small community, its history of discourse and democracy, the effects of the siege, and the others who supported and used the library. Residents from children through seniors visited and borrowed material, and they even arranged Skype lectures from a variety of speakers. Other men that she spoke to were Omar Abu Anas, a soldier in the Free Syrian Army, who kept a small collection of books protected by sandbags at the front lines; Shadi Matar, who joined the media center of the town and documented the war through photographs; Hussam Ayash, who launched a small local magazine during the siege; Abu Malek Al-Shami, who painted graffiti and murals on the ruins to keep spirits up; Abu el-Ezz, another co-founder of the library; and Ustez, a slightly older man who served as a mentor for the others.
As Monoui tracks the ongoing siege, she also documents the types of attacks they endured, including barrel bombs, sarin gas, and napalm. 
With limited access to internet, most of the communication was through media such as Whats App, with reliance on short messages, and video. 
A book that brings this group of men to life and highlights the situation that they lived in during this difficult time. She also includes a list of the most popular books in the collection and ones mentioned in her conversations with the men. 

Saturday, 16 October 2021

A Mapmaker's Dream

Finished October 15
A Mapmaker's Dream: The Meditations of Fra Mauro, Cartographer to the Court of Venice: a novel by James Cowan

This book is a fictionalized tale of a real man. Fra Mauro was a monk at San Michele di Murano who lived in the first half of the 15th century and created the most detailed and accurate map of the world for his time. 
The Fra Mauro of this book lives in the sixteenth century and so is familiar with some of the men who sailed widely and discovered new lands and routes of the time. This book is written as a collection of meditations of that man, talking about the men who've visited him and the types of information that they've shared. Some of them have shared geographic information, but others share philosophical and spiritual experiences, causing him to also have deeper thoughts on these subjects. So this is also a novel of self-reflection. The introduction says that the author came across these writings when doing research on someone else, and was first distracted and then enraptured by these and translated them into English. But as you may note from the cover this is a novel, so there is uncertainty about what is real and what isn't, besides the change of when the narrator lived. 

Classic Spin #28: My Books

I'm participating in the Classic Spin again. 

It's site is here

I have to choose 20 classic books that I want to read and on October 17th, a number between 1 and 20 will be picked and that is the book that I will have to read by December 12th of this year.
Edited on October 18th to say that the spin was for #12, so I will be reading The Awakening by Kate Chopin.

Here are my books:

1. To the Lighthouse by Virginia Wolff
2. The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner
3. Dracula by Bram Stoker
4. Buddenbrooks by Thomas Mann
5. Frankenstein by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley
6. Lord Jim by Joseph Conrad
7. Kim by Rudyard Kipling
8. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
9. A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway
10. The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster
11. The Swiss Family Robinson by Johann David Wyss
12. The Awakening by Kate Chopin
13. The Way We Live Now by Anthony Trollope
14. Sons and Lovers by D.H. Lawrence
15. Persuasion by Jane Austen
16. The Sorrows of Young Werther by Johann Wolfgang van Goethe
17. Summer Will Show by Sylvia Townsend Warner
18. Roxana by Daniel Defoe
19. Howards End by E.M Forster
20. The Return of the Soldier by Rebecca West

Paris Echo

Finished October 14
Paris Echo by Sebastian Faulks

This novel is haunted by the past but set in present-day Paris. Hannah is an American graduate student, in Paris to do research on women living in occupied Paris for a paper she is writing. She is haunted by the memories of her earlier time in Paris when she fell in love and then had the relationship end. She is also haunted by the stories of the women whose stories she finds. Listening to the recorded voices of the women, collected by a small archive in the city, she finds some hopeful, some sad, and some full of anger. Early in her stay, she finds a young woman on the street, cold and tired. She takes her in, letting her stay in the small second bedroom in her rented apartment. The next day, she finds a young man Tariq has also arrived in her flat, a friend of the woman, and she soon agrees to let him stay there.
Tariq is nineteen and from Morocco. He has come to Paris partly to escape his life there, and partly to see the city that his mother, long dead, was from, and maybe learn about her. Tariq is an open young man, who quickly finds a job, and begins exploring the city. He takes on some of the stories that Hannah is researching and connects them to people he sees in the streets. He also learns more about French history and the people of this country, from many angles. 
Hannah has also reconnected with a professor from her earlier time, an Englishman named Julian and finds herself confiding in him and bouncing ideas off of him. He too finds himself drawn into her research, looking up information on that time in history, and making connections for her. 
As the characters grow closer to each other and learn more about the city, its past, and themselves, they also find new paths forward for themselves.
I really enjoy Faulks writing and this book is one I highly recommend.

The View from Penthouse B

Finished October 12
The View from Penthouse B by Elinor Lipman

This is an author I always enjoy reading. Here we have two sisters, Margot and Gwen-Laura, who have agreed to live together in the penthouse apartment that Margot owns. Margot, the oldest sister, is recovering from a very public end to her marriage, with her husband, a fertility doctor in jail for fraud after inseminating some of his clients with his own sperm, in some cases directly. She bought the apartment with some of the money from her divorce and invested the rest. Unfortunately, she invested it with Bernie Madoff, and now has little funds to get by on. Gwen-Laura, the middle sister, is still grieving the sudden loss of her husband, a public school music teacher. It's been almost two years, but she can't seem to move on. Their younger sister, Betsy, has suggested they join forces by living together. So far it is going well. 
When Margot encounters a younger man, also affected by the collapse of the market and invites him to move in, things get interesting. Anthony is handsome, interesting, and a baker of cupcakes and begins encouraging the two sisters in different ways. When Margot's paroled ex-husband moves into a smaller apartment in the same building, the situation grows more complex. 
The story is mostly told by Gwen-Laura, and the reader can see her beginning to take small steps forward as she reengages with life. From dating apps to new work ventures, the sisters and Anthony give each other encouragement and support. 
Lighthearted with touches of humour, this is a feel-good read.

Monday, 11 October 2021

The Raven Tower

Finished October 10
The Raven Tower by Ann Leckie

This book is mostly narrated by a god, a god who embodies a large rock, and whose real name is not told to the reader until well into the story. It is a name that has been lost during the present time of the novel, and in fact the existence of the god itself is not well known at this point. Most of the narrative is directed towards a man that the god does not name either until well into the book, the man Eolo. Eolo is the right hand man of Mowat, another young man whose father has been the Lease of the Raven. The Lease lives in the Raven Tower in the Fortress in the town of Vastai, in the land of the Iraden. The Lease is committed to sacrifice his life to the Raven at the time it is necessary. When the old Raven dies, and an egg is chosen to hatch into the new Raven from the ones who live there, the Lease must also die and his Heir must become the new Lease. Until the Raven can speak again, tokens are used to communicate his words to the Lease and the other members of the Committee of Directions and the Mother of the Silent. The Mother of the Silent is the priest of the forest god, an ally of the Raven and one that protects the Iraden from external threats and internal sicknesses. 
Mowat has long known that he is the Heir of the Lease and understands the responsibilities that go with it. But he is also a leader of men and has been stationed far from home with the soldiers that protect the land. It is only as he has heard of his father's disappearance that he has rushed home, with Eolo by his side. 
Eolo is a farmer's son, but also a man of logic and reason, one who thinks about things and makes connections between actions. He sees the threats to the land of Iraden, and the people who live there. He sees the men who come from other lands, they say to make agreements and trade, but perhaps for reasons beneath the surface as well. Some of them have brought their own gods, some have brought resentments that are longstanding. Eolo must provide wise counsel, but he must also be listened to, and he must protect his own secrets. 
This is a fascinating read, with the tales of gods trying to protect those people who honour them, fighting amongst themselves, betraying each other, and lying silent for years until they can wield power again. 

Cat Nap

Finished October 9
Cat Nap by Claire Donally

This cozy mystery is set in the small Maine town of Kittery Harbor and its near neighbour and larger town Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Sunny Coolidge was a journalist in New York City when she returned to her hometown to help after her father suffered a serious health incident. Unable to get a job in her field, she is working for a local travel company, helping tourists book tours and stays in the area. She has recently adopted a cat, Shadow, who has had a life that hasn't been easy, with numerous homes that have led to a lack of trust in humans. Sunny and Shadow have been making headway with their relationship and have had the help of Jane Rigsdale, a local veterinarian who also grew up in Kittery Harbor, left and returned. 
The two are friends, but also rivals for the interest of local police officer Will Price. When Sunny and her father see Jane have a public altercation with a man, and later find out that it was Jane's ex-husband Martin, they don't realize that things will soon escalate. Martin has been asking Jane for money, and he soon approaches Sunny as well, so when Jane asks her to go with her as moral support when meeting Martin, Sunny agrees. But the two stumble into a crime scene, and Jane soon becomes the prime suspect. Sunny must do her own digging to find evidence to show that there are other people who might have more motive in the murder of Martin.
There are a few chapters that give the story from Shadow's viewpoint as he tries to overcome his trust issues to be closer to Sunny, but occasionally finds himself on the outs, literally, in the cold Maine winter. These sections felt very believable in terms of motivation and actions. 
As the possible perpetrator list grows, Sunny and Jane find themselves facing jealous women, upset pet owners, and even criminals. 
This is my first foray into this series, and I liked it.

Hello, Dark

Finished October 8
Hello, Dark by Wai Mei Wong, illustrated by Tamara Campeau

This picture book was inspired by the author's experiences as an early childhood educator with children with nighttime anxiety. The main character here is a little boy who has been afraid of the dark. He takes control of the situation by talking to the dark, and asking it to be friends with him. He first expresses his worries about the dark and how it makes him feel. He then talks about some of the good things about the dark, how it protects those creatures that are active at night and allows us to see the moon and stars more clearly. This is when he makes his offer of friendship, describing how they can talk to each other, play imaginary games together, listen to music and count sheep. 
The illustrations show the dark as a shape, but not as a monster, more as a shadow, and I loved the details of the boy's room and the outdoor world. His interest in vehicles is clear. 
This is a book that directly addresses the fears that some young children have about the dark and allays them. I liked that the boy took control, a good message for kids about how they interact with things in their world, as a active participant. 
I think this will be a useful book for many families. 

The Paris Librarian

Finished October 7
The Paris Librarian by Mark Pryor

Having recently read The Paris Library, and noticing this on one of my shelves, I pulled it out. This story is also set around the American Library in Paris, but in the modern day. It is part of a mystery series featuring Hugo Marston, the head of security for the American embassy in Paris. His roommate Tom is in the FBI, and they are both single.
One acquaintance of Hugo's is Paul Rogers, the director of the American Library.  Hugo has a friend whose friend is doing research on an aging actress who is said to have been active in espionage during World War II, and the American Library has recently obtained her papers. Paul is working on a novel and Hugo arranges to meet with his late one morning to discuss both, but he finds Paul in a locked room in the basement, dead. It seems like a natural death, but something about it bothers Hugo. 
When another death happens soon after, more questions arise.
Hugo has a contact in the French police and brings her into the case early, before it is even established that a crime has occurred and that helps them gather information that otherwise might have been lost. 
One aspect of this case that intrigues Hugo is a death in the past, long before, that has an interesting connection to Paul. 
I enjoyed the character of Hugo, with both his professional knowledge and instincts and his personal life. The various staff at the American Library are minor characters here, but still somewhat interesting. The library is in many ways just a backdrop for the larger story. 

Wednesday, 6 October 2021

Childhood, Youth, Dependency

Finished October 6
Childhood, Youth, Dependency by Tove Ditlevsen, translated by Tiina Nunnally and Michael Favala Goldman

The first two parts of this memoir, Childhood and Youth were first published in 1967, and the third Dependency in 1971, with the translations in 1985 and 2019 respectively. Here, they have been brought together in one volume. 
Ditlevsen was born to a working class family in Copenhagen with a father involved in unions and socialism and a mother who valued reputation and looks. She was close to her brother, who was a few years older. Despite her teachers' encouragement, she was not able to go on to high school, leaving at the age of fourteen to work, first as household help and eventually in officework. 
From a young age, she wrote poetry, inspired by the world and people around her and her own imagination, writing beyond her own experiences, "lies" as her brother put it, and hoping to become a published writer someday, despite her father telling her that women weren't poets. 
She found a couple of men that encouraged her, but it was only with the third, the editor and publisher of a small literary newsletter that she gained success, as well as her first husband. 
She was very focused on her own life and needs, and the men that cared for her, living an insular life of sorts, surrounded by literary people and academics, and not largely affected by greater world events. 
I found it interesting that despite being a young woman during World War II, when Denmark was occupied by the Germans, she seemed hardly affected by their presence or their actions. The men in her life continued to go about their normal lives, with some entering the world of the resistance in small ways. 
She is very frank about her relationships and her personal life in general including her addiction to drugs that arose through her fourth husband, and her choices around him. 
This is not a happy book, despite her success as a writer, but it is a compelling read and one written with skill. 

The Paris Library

Finished October 5
The Paris Library by Janet Skeslien Charles

This novel has two timelines, one in Paris starting in 1939 and going until 1944 and the other in small town Montana starting in 1983 and going until 1989. The link between the two is Odile, a French woman who married an American just after the war and settled in the town, Froid, in Montana. 
In Paris, Odile is interviewed and gets a job at the American Library, a place she is in awe of and has aimed to work at for years. We see Odile as well as the other staff at the library over this time period, getting to know the situations and some of the personalities.
Odile's father is a high-ranking police officer who doesn't understand Odile's need for a career and just wants to see her happily married, bringing home junior officers to Sunday dinner to try to make a match. Odile's twin brother Remy is interested in politics and trying to change the world. 
Odile makes friends with her coworkers as well as some of the regular staff, including a lonely wife of an American diplomat who becomes a volunteer at the library.
Odile is young and impulsive and at times her actions end in regret. We see how one of these actions compelled her to make her choice of an American husband and run from her life in Paris.
In the modern day story, teenage Lily is close to her mother Brenda, and finds herself unmoored when Brenda becomes ill. Lily has long been fascinated by Odile, a woman who has never really fit in in their town, and has recently called on her to find out more about her and Paris, using a school assignment as leverage. With Brenda's illness, Lily spends more time at her neighbour Odile's house and even begins to learn French from her. As we see Lily go through her high school years, dealing with the changes that happen in her family and the normal angst of growing up, we see how Odile is a positive influence in her life, guiding her in a way to learn from and avoid some of the mistakes that Odile herself made in her youth. 
This story is a sad one, although it has many joyful moments. Odile's choice to run from her life, cutting off all ties is one that to me is heart-wrenching, both for her and for those she left behind whose stories after that we don't know much of at all. There is so much they won't have understood about her never returning, and it seems like they may not have tried which is even sadder.
Lily's story is more hopeful, despite her own losses, partly because of Odile's influence in her life. 
This was an interesting story which compelled me and made me reflect. 

All I Did Was Shoot My Man

Finished October 2
All I Did Was Shoot My Man by Walter Mosley

This is the 4th book in the Leonid McGill series. Set in New York City, Leonid is a former criminal who has gone legitimate (mostly), works as a private investigator, and one of the things he does is try to rectify some of the things he did in his earlier life. 
As this book begins he is fighting a low-grade fever and waiting to meet a bus carrying women released from prison, specifically to meet Zella Grisham. Eight years earlier, Zella came home early from work one day due to feeling ill. She walked in on her boyfriend Harry Tangelo in bed with her best friend Minnie Lesser. She reached for the gun in the top drawer of her dresser and shot Harry, injuring him. She was in a disassociated state at the time and doesn't actually remember doing it, but doesn't deny it. Interestingly, both Harry and Minnie had their own apartments, so having their assignation in her place seems like it was just asking to be discovered. The judge was being inclined to go light on Zella given the circumstances until an anonymous tip came in saying that information related to a large theft of money would be found in her storage locker. Zella was given several years in jail, and made life choices based on her sentence.
McGill was involved in the placement of that evidence (something he had done in other circumstances as well) and feels guilt over how it affected her life. He was able to get the evidence reexamined and get that case against her dropped and get her out of jail. He has also found her a place to live and a job. But all of these actions have awakened the guilty of that crime and it seems like many people associated with that crime have been killed and tortured. As McGill tries to protect Zella, and get to the bottom of the case, it takes him to the highest levels of the company the crime was committed against, and back to his own past. 
McGill is also facing issues in his personal life, starting to search for his father who he has recently learned is alive, dealing with his oldest son's first serious relationship, and sorting out his feelings about his wife and a former lover. His wife Katrina is showing behavioural changes and he is worried about this change.
His younger son Twill is now working for him, and showing himself to be very much like his father in terms of personality and judgement. When McGill has Twill involved in a case, Twill shows initiative in making his own decisions and going beyond his remit. 
This is the second book that I've read in the series, and I find McGill to be an interesting and complex character. He is smart and quick to react to a situation. This book lets us see more of his family and the relationships between the members of that family as well as some of his associates. Mosley is a fantastic writer and I've loved everything I've read of his.

Tuesday, 5 October 2021

The Cow Said Boo!

Finished September 30
The Cow Said Boo! by Lana Button, illustrated by Alice Carter

This delightful tale is perfect for coming up to Hallowe'en. The book begins with the cow hanging out her laundry while dealing with a head cold. Instead of saying "Moo!", it sounds like she is saying "Boo!", so when she stumbles into the clothesline and gets a sheet caught around her, she ends up scaring all her other farm animal friends by looking and sounding like a very large and scary ghost.
As often happens when people are scared and then find out that the thing that scared them wasn't really scary, after their fear ends, at first they get a little angry.
But that night, a fox creeps onto the farm up to no good, and the cow is able to scare the fox as well, saving all her friends from this dangerous intruder. Her friends realize that not only had she saved them, she was ill, and so they rally together and look after her until she is well and can say "Moo!" again. However, as often happens when you spend time closely with someone who is sick without protection, the other animals have now caught her cold, and so the noises they normally make come out sounding odd as well. 
The back inside cover offers instructions on how to wash your hands (or hooves and paws!) properly to keep from getting or passing along a cold through touch.
The illustrations really bring the story to life and show the personalities of the animals. 
A fun and lighthearted read about a group of friends. 

An Irish Hostage

Finished September 28
An Irish Hostage by Charles Todd

This mystery is part of the Bess Crawford series. It is the summer of 1919 and Bess is home waiting to make a decision about her future as she knows the hospital doesn't need all the nurses that they did during the war, and she doesn't want to take a job from someone who really needs one. Short term, she has been asked to be maid of honour by a fellow nurse that she rescued when their ship was attacked. Her friend, Eileen Flynn is from Ireland, as is her fiance Michael Sullivan, who has just been demobbed from the British Army. 
But things in Ireland are tense with the British looking to guard against more uprisings like the one that occurred during the war. Bess's parents are worried about her travelling across Ireland to attend the wedding. Bess suggests asking Simon's friend Captain Arthur Jackson, an American pilot to fly her directly to Eileen's family home instead. This is seized on as a good solution to the issue.
It is Bess's first flight and she loves it, but she finds on arrival that things are more difficult than anticipated. There are some in the community who resent the Irish that served in the British forces during the war, and there are rebels looking for opportunities to further their cause, some with more appetite for violence than others. Bess finds that Michael has disappeared, presumably kidnapped, and although Arthur argues that they leave, Bess cannot abandon her friend, and sends Arthur to let her family know and see what more can be discovered. 
As Bess learns more about Eileen's family, from her rebel leader cousin Terrance who is supposed to give Eileen away at the ceremony to the local priest who is a close confidant of Eileen's grandmother, she finds she needs her nursing skills, her sharp mind, and her strategic intuition to be able to cope with everything that happens. Luckily, besides Terrance, she soon has another ally from an unexpected source.
This book gives insight into the complex Irish political situation of the time, without demonizing any of the players. Bess shows her strength, both of mind and body as she often does and stays calm even when things get very tense. I enjoy her as a character and enjoyed this setting and situation as well.

Sunday, 3 October 2021

Tuesday, 28 September 2021

Hunted by the Sky

Finished September 27 
Hunted by the Sky by Tanaz Bhathena

This is the first book in a fantasy series that is inspired by medieval India. Written for teens and with teen characters at the center of it, this book begins with a teen girl, Gul, hiding as government-sponsored warriors looking for her kill her parents. Gul has known all her life that her life is in danger due to a birthmark on her arm. It was foretold that a girl with such a birthmark would kill the king and so girls have been hunted down and disappeared for years. 
Now that she is on her own, she must figure out how to survive and how to kill the king and the Sky Warrior Shayla who killed her parents. 
Gul lives in the kingdom of Ambar, a kingdom that belonged to a loose coalition of neighbouring kingdoms but that has since become more independent, and one that has become more authoritarian and less tolerant. It used to be that all people lived in harmony, but with the current king and his predecessor those who don't have magical skills have been moved to their own neighbourhoods called tenements, had their rights taken away, and become near slaves. There are those who remember times of more harmony where all the people lived together and worked together and went to school together, but in the current world life is difficult for those without magic. 
One of those who has grown up in the tenements is Cavas, a boy who works in the royal stables as his father did before him. Cavas lost his mother when he was very young and as his father grew more ill, he has taken on the role of breadwinner for the pair of them, but also has recently been introduced to a mysterious man he summons with a special coin, one he gives information to in exchange for money. Cavas uses the money to buy medicine for his father, and hopes to find a way to leave the tenements so that his father can get well again, as it is the air of the tenements that has brought the disease he suffers from. 
Gul found her path crossing the path of a group of women, women who took her with them and have been training her to become a warrior, who have a similar aim to change the leadership of their kingdom and bring a more just and equitable rule back. Gul has only had glimpses of the magic she has been given, when it appears in times of stress or threat. Now she must learn how to understand it and control it.
As Gul and Cavas have their paths cross, it becomes clear that something ties their fates, and the magic together, and they must overcome their differences to work together. 
I found this a fascinating world, with very interesting types of magic skills in the different characters, and creatures different from the ones in this world. Gul's affinity for animals is an unusual and useful one, and when Cavas learns his own truths about what he is able to do, he must put aside resentments from the past. They are both strong-willed and smart and both believe in social change for the greater good.
There is a glossary at the back of the book to explain some of the terminology of this world, although I found that the context helped anyway and the book's flow wasn't lost due to the new words. 

Monday, 27 September 2021


Finished September 25 
Storm by George R. Stewart, introduction by Nathaniel Rich

I loved this book. I got it through my subscription to the New York Review of Books, and before I read it attended (virtually) an interview with Nathaniel Rich that was enlightening. 
This novel was originally published in 1941, and was very popular at the time. Stewart lived in California for many years and experienced many of northern California's storms. To research this book, he did a lot of research, much of it primary, meeting with the men (as most of them were men at the time) working on the roads and the rails, and at the airport and in the weather office, learning how it all worked, learning meteorology and geography and so much else that he uses in this book.
The storm of the title is a major storm, but not a hurricane or typhoon. The characters that interact with it here are mostly in northern California and Nevada, but he talks about effects across the continent and from the other side of the Pacific where the storm originates. 
I learned a lot about the way roads were cleared, the control systems around water, and weather. Stewart has one character, the Junior Meteorologist, fresh out of school and with a lean towards the science of weather, naming the storms he sees. At the time of initial publication, storms like hurricanes weren't given names as they are now, and this book was an inspiration to that practice beginning, which I found kind of neat. As this particular storm is given the name Maria (pronounced Mar-I-ah) by the meteorologist, I was reminded of the song "They Call the Wind Maria" and wondered if there was a connection, so I looked it up, and indeed that song was inspired by this book. 
The book is broken up into twelve days, the life of the storm. For each day, we are told a variety of short narratives, some historical, some meteorological, some philosophical, and some about the people who interacted with the storm and what they faced. We see many of these people over and over through the narrative, with some appearing every day and other just a few. There are also those who appear only once. Besides the people, we also have some wildlife, including a coyote and a boar. These animals have the storm touch their lives as well in differing ways.
Highly recommended.

Isn't It Bromantic?

Finished September 23
Isn't It Bromantic? by Lyssa Kay Adams

This is the fourth book in this series and we're finally seeing more about a man who appeared in the first novel, Russian hockey player Vlad Konnikov. Then we knew him as a man with a bad gastrointestinal issue and a penchant for cheese. No one wanted to use a bathroom after him, but he was emotive and joined into book club activities with enthusiasm.  
In the third book we caught a glimpse of his beautiful wife Elena Konnikova, a journalism student at an American university and his childhood friend. 
Elena practically grew up with Vlad, after losing her mother at the age of nine and with her journalist father travelling all the time. As they came into adulthood they developed feelings for each other, but had difficulty expressing them.
When Vlad made it into the NHL, he proposed to Elena, partly to get her out of Russia, where she had recently lost her father when he disappeared working on a story about organized crime. She quickly agreed, but when she arrived in the U.S., she decided to take a degree in journalism, following in her family's footsteps, so they didn't spend much time together.
As this story begins, Elena is nearly done her degree and Vlad had just had a bad injury during a game. When his team representative contacts her to come, she goes immediately. She knows how much she owes Vlad, and wants to ensure that he has what he needs, even though the last time she saw him, six months ago, she told him she wanted to end the marriage.
As the two meet again, they are awkward with each other, working at cross purposes, neither of them communicating what is in their hearts.
Vlad, however, has the Bromance Book Club, and they pitch in to remind him of what he has learned in the club, and to help him in a surprise endeavour of his own.
Elena discovers a group of women in Vlad's neighbourhood who he has been using as a sounding board, as well as the group of wives and girlfriends of the Bromance book club, and is reminded of her own lack of close friends outside of her husband. Elena also has a secret project, one that has driven her for years and that she isn't about to let go. 
As both of their projects pull them toward and away from each other, they find themselves opening up to each other in new ways. 
This is another great read in the series, with depth as well as humour. We see familiar characters as well as some new additions and can see other relationships on the horizon. A fun read.

A Secret History of Witches

Finished September 19
A Secret History of Witches by Louisa Morgan

This novel follows five generations of women in the United Kingdom from the early 19th century to World War II. The story begins in Cornwall in the 1830s, when the youngest sister in a family begins to exhibit the power she has inherited. Nanette came to Cornwall from France as a young child, part of a family of Romany people fleeing persecution. Like the rest of her family, she speaks French, but has also learned the local Cornish dialect, and English. Nanette takes the vegetables and cheese her family produces on their small farm and sells it at the local market. Their neighbours are still wary of this family and suspicious of their differences and the language they speak amongst themselves. 
It is Nanette's grandmother who had a vision of where they would find haven, and who sent them there and protected them with her last breath.
The skills that the women in the family have range from simple herbal skills to scrying and making spells. Nanette has inherited a crystal that she sees things in, and a grimoire, or book of spells. They are connected to her and her descendents from the family that has already owned and used them. 
Nanette has a quiet life on the farm except for one incident in her youth that brings her own daughter Ursule to the family. 
Ursule begins her life in Cornwall, but circumstances take her to Wales where her own daughter Irène begins her life. 
As each woman comes to adulthood she learns of her heritage and her nature, sometimes with the help of other family, sometimes on her own, sometimes with help from others. 
Each woman chooses her own path, and how to use her gift and how to protect the knowledge of that gift from those who would persecute her for it. 
Each woman's story is different through these choices, and the knowledge they gain. As we see how those choices bring them different things in their lives, we also see how others react to them. The gifts they have inherited are not easy ones to have, and sometimes difficult choices must be made, and things that matter must be sacrificed.
This is a story of women trying to do the right thing for their families and for society as a whole, and trying to stay safe while they do those things. The book drew me into their lives and made me care about what happened to them, and the familiars that each woman connected with. For me it was a real page-turner and one that left me wanting more.

Wednesday, 22 September 2021

Molly of the Mall

Finished September 17
Molly of the Mall: Literary Lass and Purveyor of Fine Footwear by Heidi L.M. Jacobs

This book awoke memories and kept me thoroughly engaged. Written over the course of a year, Molly narrates the book in a style that feels like a diary. The book is divided into the summer and two semesters and starts as Molly begins work in a shoe store at West Edmonton Mall. She does well and returns to her full-time seasonal position for the Christmas season and the following summer. 
The portion with her working at the mall is filled with long work shifts, the surface encounters of retail, interactions with her co-workers and other mall stall, and musings on her life. She meets an older man while browsing at the book store and they begin a friendship without even knowing each other's name. 
Molly is a huge Jane Austen fan and reads and rereads her books often. Both her parents are professors at University of Alberta, her mother in art and her father in English literature, her own major. Her older sister Tess is in France and her brother Heathcliff is busy with his agronomy studies. As you can guess, all three children have literary names, each from the book her father was teaching at the time of their birth. Molly is named for Moll Flanders. 
The time that Molly is at university is taken up by her studies, friendships, and aims to be a writer herself someday. She is an innovative student in some ways, submitting a mix-tape for one assignment and an apology for another. Molly doesn't have a boyfriend, but she might like one. Not that she really has time in her busy life. She has good friends, and a good relationship with her parents, who are also interesting and engaging characters. 
One reason that I really connected with this book and with the character of Molly is that I also studied at the University of Alberta and worked at West Edmonton Mall. I however worked at the less upscale Phase One section in a no-longer-existent department store. Her wanderings through the mall and her life on campus brought back fond memories in a nostalgic way. Beyond that, Molly is an optimistic and caring person and one who has dreams for the future. 
I borrowed this from my local library, but may have to splurge on my own copy.  

Wednesday, 15 September 2021

The Librarian of Saint-Malo

Finished September 13 
The Librarian of Saint-Malo by Mario Escobar, translated by Gretchen Abernathy

Set during the Second World War, the book is focused on Jocelyn Ferrec who has recently been hired to run the town library. But she has bad luck. After getting engaged to be married, she has contracted tuberculosis and her health is affected. She gets married anyway, but her wedding day is the day that Germany invades Poland, and war will eventually come to her as well. 
Jocelyn tells her tale through letters to a famous French author that she admires, Marcel Dumas, and sends them to him by private courier when she can manage it. Somehow this makes her feel better even when her situation is dire.
From German occupation to threats against her person and the books she cares so much about, Jocelyn must fight where she can, take action where she can do so, and try to hide the books she fears will be destroyed or plundered. 
Besides Jocelyn, there is Celine, the librarian that Jocelyn took over from, her bookseller friend Denis, the local doctor and other neighbours. Some seem eager to cooperate with the Germans, others find ways to make trouble for them. Jocelyn, while she believes strongly in the power of books, doesn't believe that her friends lives are worth more than them. 
This was an interesting premise of a story, but it didn't grab me like I expected. Thinking about it, I found that it had action and drama, with the characters displaying lots of emotion, but it lacked depth. The ease of movement of some of the characters seemed unlikely, and many things weren't explained very well. I think there are many better books about this time period in the genre. 

The Sandcastle Girls

Finished September 9
The Sandcastle Girls by Chris Bohjalian

I learned so much from this book as well as reading a great story. I was aware of the Armenian  genocide, but this book really brings it to life by taking the reader into the lives of characters involved in and witnessing the atrocities. 
The story is told in two timelines. One is is present day writer Laura Petrosian looking into her family history, and the other is the experiences of her grandparents. Her grandmother Elizabeth Endicott accompanies her father to Syria in 1915 as he brings food and medical aid to the Armenian refugees. They are working with a group called Friends of Armenia. While there she meets and connects with a young Armenian man Armen Petrosian who has been working with the German forces to lay rail as well as searching for his wife and infant daughter. The two German engineers that he is working with are upset by what they are seeing in regards to the refugees and have been secretly taking pictures of the refugees and noting their personal details. The day that Elizabeth arrives in Aleppo a group of women and children are herded into the city. Mostly naked, burnt from the sun and very malnourished, Elizabeth is faced with the reality of the situation. As she volunteers in the local hospital and takes one woman and child into her own quarters, she tries to understand more and she finds herself drawn to the young engineer. 
We also see things from Armen's viewpoint, how he has been searching for his family and what has happened to his brothers, how he tries to direct his anger towards a useful end, and how he feels about this young American woman he has just met. 
As Laura learns more about her grandparents, and finds personal information that she wasn't aware of before, she finds herself obsessed with their story.
This is said to be one of Bohjalian's most personal books as he is also Armenian in heritage. It is a heart-wrenching tale, but beautifully written.

Monday, 13 September 2021

Our Women on the Ground

Finished September 8
Our Women on the Ground: Essays by Arab Women Reporting from the Arab World edited by Zahra Hankir, foreword by Christine Amanpour

This collection of essays covers experiences in a number of countries over many years. The essays are grouped into five categories by type: Remembrances, Crossfire, Resilience, Exile, Transition. The journalists telling their experiences here range from single women to married mothers, and their educational backgrounds vary as well, with some with journalism degrees and others who fell into the field through opportunity. 
All of the women here care deeply about their home country and the country they reported on, often with the two overlapping. These are women who understand the culture and the people, who learned how to deal with the bureaucracy and the gender limitations, and who persevered in telling the stories that they could tell, trying always to push harder to tell the stories that others didn't want told. 
This is an inspiring collection, one that had me stopping and reflecting on each experience. For me, this was an eye into another culture that helped me understand the world better. 

The Clockmaker's Daughter

Finished September 7
The Clockmaker's Daughter by Kate Morton

As always, Kate Morton brings the reader a book with history, romance, and so much more. This novel has more than one timeline, all around a core set of characters and a place. 
One of the narrators is unnamed, and the reader gradually learns their story through the narration, and only understands who it is as the story ends. The other main character and narrator is the modern day archivist Elodie Winslow. 
Elodie works as an archivist for a small collection in London focused on the historical figure of James Stratton. He was a philanthropist and we learn a little about him through the course of the novel as well. Elodie is cataloging a few items that were found in a small cloakroom during recent renovations, somehow missed previously. They are a fine leather satchel, a sketchpad, and a framed picture. One of the sketches in the book is a scene that Elodie recognizes from a story her mother often told her. This connection touches Elodie and she does something she's never done before and removes them from the office. 
Elodie is engaged to be married to a successful investment banker, and as her wedding nears, she has to make some final decisions around the ceremony and her dress. Her best friend Pippa has offered to design her wedding dress, and Elodie must meet with her soon to give some guidance to her friend. Elodie's mother, Lauren, had been a famous pianist who died in an accident when Elodie was young, and thus she and her father are very close. She is also close to her great uncle, Tip, a quiet man who has a bookstore. Elodie has been asked by her fiance's mother to choose a recording of her mother to play at the wedding and choosing one is another task that Elodie has to do. 
But Elodie continues to be distracted by the image of the house from the sketchbook, and about the photograph of the young woman that she found in the same case. 
As she begins to learn more, we also travel back in time, first to 1862 when the young artist Edward Radcliffe was just becoming famous and takes a party of artist friends and family members to a house he has recently bought that has special meaning to him. We travel to the same house in two other time periods as well as the present, with one time when it was being used as a boarding school, and another when a family took refuge there during World War II. 
As we gradually discover the connections between the various characters in these other times and the present Elodie, we also discover the history of the woman in the photo, and of the house that connects all the characters. 
There is a lot going on here, and romances in more than one time period, sometimes quite unexpected. Elodie also learns more about her own mother and how she feels about this parent she barely remembers. The house is almost a character in itself and there are many interesting personalities that have roles in the story. 
As always with Morton, I thoroughly enjoyed the unfolding story and anticipating some connections while being surprised by others. A great read. 
** This post was featured on Twinkl as part of their Literary Lovers campaign. **

Sunday, 12 September 2021

Harley the Hero

Finished September 6
Harley the Hero by Peggy Collins

This picture book is based on a real service dog who assists a teacher. The children in the class in the story are taught to understand the role of service dogs and how to behave around them. Because they can't interact with Harley, their teacher's service dog while he is on duty, they write letters to him. Told from the point of view of one of the children in the class this story shows how he feels about Harley and his teacher Mrs. Pritchard, how one of his classmates Amelia interacts with Harley, and how Harley understands Amelia in ways that her classmates don't always. 
Harley has an Animail mailbox to receive the letters and gifts (including) that the children have for him. 
Their class is one of the quieter ones in the school due to Harley's presence. 
The story deals in particular with one day when some curtains caught fire and the children had to react to the danger. Even though the children have practiced what to do in an emergency, when the real thing happens, they aren't as organized as they expected. There is noise and smoke and it is distracting and scary. Harley stays focused though and he protects all the students, as well as Mrs. Pritchard. Harley is the hero of the day.
I liked the way the kids learned here, and how they reacted in realistic ways to a difficult situation. This is a good introduction to some things that are important to know about service dogs as well.

Friday, 10 September 2021

Last Impressions

Finished September 5
Last Impressions by Joseph Kertes

Ben is the middle son of Zoltan Beck, a Holocaust survivor and Canadian immigrant. Zoltan (Zoli) grew up in an upper-class family in Hungary, the younger son in the family. He venerated his older brother Bela, who was a gifted musician and despite his young age a teacher at the Franz Liszt Academy. 
The book begins with Ben visiting his father in the hospital, Zoltan is nearing the end of his life and Ben is still trying to understand him. We see the interaction between the two men, and can sense the strong connection, and Ben's deep emotion. 
The story then jumps back a few months to when Ben is picking his father up to take him into the hospital for a colonoscopy. Ben's younger brother, an eye surgeon, has finally convinced Zoli to get the procedure done, but the visit is a comedy of errors, as is Zoli's driving test shortly after. We get a sense of the zaniness of the older man and the way his mind works.
Zoli has never gone back to Hungary, his country of birth since he emigrated in the 1950s when Ben was a young child. It is something both he and his wife talked of from time to time, but never followed through on. The family decides that he must go while he still can and so it is arranged that Ben takes him back to his homeland.
The book then jumps back and forth between Zoli's experiences as a Jew in Hungary near the end of the Second World War, and things he has never talked about with his family before. As the two storylines come together we learn some of what has made Zoli the man he is, and why he has suppressed so much of this until now. 
I loved the relationship between the father and son, and Zoli's relationship with his daughter-in-law Lucy as well. Zoli is a character, full of quirks that make him both exasperating and lovable. As the story unfolds and Zoli finds that there are things he didn't know about the past as well, there is a sense of inevitability in the way things come together. A fantastic read that I could barely put down.

Thursday, 9 September 2021

On the Line

Finished September 6
On the Line by Kari-Lynn Winters, illustrated by Scot Ritchie

On the surface this is a tale of a young hockey player finding his place, but it is so much more than that. The central character is Jackson Moore, a boy that lives in a small town where hockey is an important part of the community. Several members of his family have been players that have been great assets to their team, described as hockey heroes. Everyone seems to be looking for Jackson to follow in their footsteps, but he has doubts. Mostly he keeps his doubts to himself while wondering what will happen if he doesn't live up to these expectations. 
As he joins his first hockey team, the coach and the players are excited to have him on the team, but his actual performance as a hockey player underwhelms them. There is an upcoming tournament called Winterfest that they are looking forward to playing in, but one requirement is regulation equipment. Of course, though it isn't stated explicitly here, hockey equipment and its costs are one of the major barriers to children joining the game. 
As Jackson tries to make traditional game plans to stay on his feet and impress his team members, he finds the need to rethink and make a different type of game plan entirely to ensure that his team gets to play at all. This part of the story is told in pictures, not words and isn't clear until the big reveal. 
The book ends with a page on team stewardship and its importance to the overall team spirit and cohesion. 
The illustrations add important elements to the story, showing diversity in the community and on the team, and the level of ingenuity the kids and their parents had used to come up with workarounds on equipment. Without the illustrations, this book wouldn't say as much as it does. 

It's Not Magic

Finished September 4
It's Not Magic: Poems by Jon Sands

This selection of poetry by Sands is divided into five untitled sections. Each is headed by a few lines of poetry from another poet that gives a sense of the theme of that section. 
The first section has poems of youth and origins, some mentioning family. I think my favourite here is Palindrome, a poem that moves backward from his grandmother's funeral into her life.
The second section is more reflective, with a hint of sadness to the lines. My favourite here is I Know That Silence Will Greet Me....
The third section has many relationship poems, poems around friendship and early adulthood, poems that reflect on growth and aging. My favourite here is Ode To My Mother's Hip.
The fourth section has only two poems, both prose poems and hard for me to choose one I liked better.
The fifth section is more open, a catch-all of sorts, with poems that are reflective, catching moments in time, like a song on the bus, an apology for a past action. Here my favourite is The Day We Chose Instead to Grow. 
I enjoyed reading and thinking about these poems.

Wednesday, 8 September 2021

If Only...

Finished September 4
If Only... by Mies van Hout, translated by David Colmer

This charming and vibrant picture book begins with a young child looking at a butterfly and wishing they could be that creature and move like that through the world. It then continues that idea with the butterfly looking at another small creature (a stick insect) and having a similar thought. The book continues through a wide variety of small creatures, each admiring something about another one, until it circles back to a creature looking at children. The pictures are colourful and intense and happy, with many of them intensely one colour (monochromatic) or close neighbours of colours (analogous) with just minor elements of a contrasting or complementary colour. This use of colour really adds to the appeal of the pictures.
At the end of the tale is a glossary of the creatures from the story, with small images of at least one example of each creature and a single sentence that gives some information on the nature of creature, including information on how they move, why they look the way they do, how they got the name they are commonly known by, where they live, or what they eat. 
Also at the back of the book is a helpful section on making collage images like some of the ones from the book. It gives a list of what is needed, and a easy to understand method of making art with collage and embellishing it. There is an additional sidebar for making self-painted paper to use for collage as well. 
I always enjoy the lovely books by this author and this one adds the fun element of small creatures that children are often fascinated by. 

Outside, You Notice

Finished September 3
Outside, You Notice by Erin Alladin, illustrated by Andrea Blinick

This picture book can be read on two levels. The easier level follows a pattern, continuing from the phrase "Outside, you notice..." with most of them beginning with "how". These include using different senses. Some examples are "How after the rain everything smells greener" and "How a strawberry tastes sweetest when you pick it yourself and eat it still warm from the sun". The illustrations include many details, but are also loose and playful, like sketches, and include many things going on. 
The second level of reading is more scientific, and includes a lot of factual information around the phrase for the double page spread. Again an example, for the pages where things smell greener, has four facts: that part of rain's smell is made of oils released by plants; some plant leaves are shaped like funnels to catch the rain; some trees have so many leaves that the ground beneath them can stay dry; and that plants drink through their roots. The pictures for this page include trees, plants, puddles, insects, animals, birds, two individual children enjoying the results of the rain in different ways, and more. It would be easy for spend several minutes on each set of pages noticing things and learning about the world around us. 
The text encourages the children to use smell, hearing, taste, touch, and sight to notice the world and the facts for each range from four to six for each scene. Many of the activities shown will make children want to do these things themselves, whether it is planting seeds or taking a hike. Some noticing encourages being still and some being on the move, some has us looking up and some looking down. At the end of the book, a page lists where the different scenes take place, in parks and yards, trails and gardens, and even playgrounds. This book will encourage healthy activity and engaging with the natural world. The author has a background in gardening and forestry that shows in the information presented here. 

Saturday, 4 September 2021

Sisters of the Resistance

Finished September 3
Sisters of the Resistance by Christine Wells

This novel focuses on two sisters in Paris in 1944 and 1947 and jumps back and forth between the two time periods. Yvette Foucher is outgoing and exuberant. During the war she worked for the fashion House of Lelong where the designer Christian Dior worked. Her family also worked as the concierge at the building that Dior and his sister Catherine lived in. After her father's death, her mother retreated into herself and Yvette's sister Gabby took on most of the concierge duties. Gabby's young man was killed in the war before the actions of this novel, and she is just trying to keep things safe, abide by the curfews and look after the residents that are most needy. One of them is the elderly Madame LaRoq, and she is now delivering meals to her on a regular basis and visiting, as is Catherine Dior. Catherine makes frequent trip to her farm in the country and often brings back food and passes it on to others such as the Fouchers. Gabby finds more than she bargained for in Madame LaRoq's apartment one day, and finds herself involved in hiding people from the Germans. One of the women who brings people in to be hidden is Catherine Dior, and thus Gabby finds herself in ever closer connection to her.
When Yvette is bringing a cape to the actress Louise Dulac, who is a mistress to a high-ranking German officer, she is noticed by the actress and gets asked to do some additional work for her. As a result of an incident with her bicycle she also meets a young diplomat Vidar Lind. Lind takes an interest in her and seems to keep popping up in her life. But Yvette isn't sure whether she can trust him entirely.
In 1947, Yvette is back in Paris from New York to testify at the trial of Louise Dulac. She is willing to do so, but also she has been disappointed with trying to work as a model in New York as she doesn't have the look that is popular there, and she hopes to get a chance to work for Dior who is about to launch his own collection. Gabby hasn't heard from her sister since she escaped France, and is happy to see her well, but is haunted by her own losses from the war, including one that she doesn't know the fate of. When she gets a chance to deal with that unresolved situation in person, she finds she has more courage than she thought, and begins to hope for a life beyond that of being concierge with her mother. 
The two young women are different in character, but both caring individuals, and you see how that underlies their actions. Yvette is more impetuous, but she is also quick-thinking and resourceful, and figures out a way to avoid the worst of situations, yet notices anomalies in the world around her. Gabby is also one to notice, aware of the building residents habits and actions, helping where she can, and she can also summon courage more easily when she is doing it on behalf of someone else. As they navigate the difficult time of occupation, they also face adult situations headon and do what they must. After the war, they must find a future for themselves and they look forward in different ways. 
I really enjoyed this novel despite a couple of weak plot points, such as the trial. 

Friday, 3 September 2021

This Is The Night Our House Will Catch Fire

Finished September 3
This Is The Night Our House Will Catch Fire: a Memoir by Nick Flynn

This memoir began with Flynn telling stories of his childhood to his young daughter. One story was about the night the first house his mother owned caught fire when he was seven years old. It was across the street from the fire station, and it had significant asbestos content, so although heavily damaged, it didn't burn down. Other stories are about the old man who lived nearby, the fear he instilled and the odd collections of things he had. He talks about the saltmarsh he crossed to get to school, and the world of books he lived in.
Alongside these stories to his daughter he talks about the trips he made back to his hometown with her, his marriage and the insecurities and communication issues that affect it, and his mother's death by suicide. 
The chapters here are short and dreamlike, as he tries to piece together his past and make sense of what are memories and what has been imagined. He examines how that fiery night has stayed with him and still affects him in many ways. The writing caught me and held me to the story, wanting to see what he learned, how he moved forward following his exposure of the past and the secrets he held onto. 

Thursday, 2 September 2021

Listen Up! Train Song

Finished September 1
Listen Up! Train Song by Victoria Allenby

This picture book shows different kinds of trains, different parts of trains and connects them to different sounds. It plays with onomatopoeia by showing kids how the sounds that the trains make are described by words that sound similar and encourages them to explore this concept. 
The book is written in a song pattern with repetitive lines linking the different verses. The photographs have close-ups of some of the train parts making sounds like horns and brakes. There are also some train-related items like crossings that have noise that get included here. Parts of the trains like engines and boxcars have their own particular noises. 
The types of trains include modern stream-lined trains, subway trains, metro trains, traditional freight trains, and steam trains.
There is a short section at the back of the book that gives ideas of how to explore the concepts from the book in other ways. 
With kids often fascinated by trains, this book is sure to appeal to many.

Wednesday, 1 September 2021

Sunny Days

Finished September 1 
Sunny Days by Deborah Kerbel and Miki Sato

I just discovered this lovely summery picture book that is a perfect companion book to the Snow Days book by the same author/illustrator pair. This book uses similar multi-media art to show a wide variety of ways to enjoy the summery, sunny outdoors. As someone who enjoys textile art, I particularly like the stitching I spot in the images. 
Another thing that I absolutely love about these books is the diversity portrayed. Any child will be able to find an image that they can connect with. The endpapers show a variety of summery images, from flowers and insects to cold treats to toys and clothing. The activities start with waking up to the sun and end with being tucked into bed. In between the children enjoy reading outside, planting a garden, making mud pies, enjoying the sun, swimming, enjoying popsicles and ice cream cones, listening to crickets, noticing shadows, and enjoying a sunset.
The backgrounds have additional things to notice that sunny days bring: clothes drying on a line, birds singing, going barefoot, profusion of flowers, playing in the sand, sitting in the shade, and dandelion clocks.
The book ends with some easy ways to learn about science that are connected with the sun, things that explore the power of the sun, light, shadows, and more.