Friday, October 19, 2012

a good book!

It's been awhile since I've done an honest-to-goodness book review. Partly because I've not had as much time to read lately and partly because the things I've read haven't been particularly noteworthy. I've enjoyed most of what I've read but nothing has been so great I've wanted to tell you all about it. But I have pulled a couple of fun ones in the last week or so that I thought I'd share.

Mole Had Everything
Author and Illustrator: Jamison Odone
Pages: 32
Age Range: 4-8
Published: 2012
Genre: Picture Book
Cover Score:***
Overall Score:****
Rating: G

Mole doesn't have much, just a small home, one bed, one pillow, one shelf for books and one cup for tea. He's content with his simple life and his few possessions. He spends his days taking walks and counting the stars and all is well until he invites his friend Emerson Beaver over for tea and he realizes that one cup isn't going to work for both of them. Emerson convinces him that he needs more stuff. In fact, he should have everything! So Mole leaves on a quest to find everything and comes back with a pretty big haul. But now he doesn't have room for his friends or time to do the things he enjoyed so much before. Instead he dusts and straightens and is overwhelmed in caring for all of his things. He decides to give it all away again. Well, most of it. He does keep an extra cup for tea!

It's a plea for simplicity that would make Thoreau proud and is a non-preachy lesson for anyone in this consumer driven, keeping with the Joneses (or Kardashians) society; everyone is different and having more 'stuff' doesn't necessarily make you happy. The pleasantly muted illustrations are appropriately sparse or crammed with visuals and the characters are highly appealing. I'll be watching for more to come from this fairly new author. Definitely recommended.

Olivia and the Fairy Princesses
Author and Illustrator: Ian Falconer
Pages: 32
Age Range: 4-8
Published: 2012
Genre: Picture Book
Cover Score:****
Overall Score:*****
Rating: G

The pig is back and she's better than ever. Olivia is struggling with an identity crises, determined to avoid falling into the sparkly, pink princess abyss that everyone else (even some boys) seems to have fallen into. But what should she be?

She flirts with the idea of nurse and reporter, spends a Halloween dressed as a warthog, and even gives alternate princesses (from Africa, Thailand, and China) a try. At bedtime she turns up her snout at damsel in distress stories but realizing that she doesn't want to be the Little Match Girl either, she promptly declares that she shall be queen!

The illustrations are Falconer's signature black and white with shots of color scattered throughout. And as always there's a nod to some actual piece of art or location. This time she channels Martha Graham when she eschews the tutu in favor of a stretchy gray tube of fabric and proceeds to strike a series of "stark, modern" poses. (A framed photograph of Graham shows up on her bedroom wall in a later spread.)
The first book will always be my favorite but this runs a close second and is a welcome alternative to the glut of uber-girly books on the shelves these days.

Dear Blue Sky
Author: Mary Sullivan
Pages: 228
Age Range: 9-14
Published: 2012
Genre: Realistic Fiction
Cover Score: ****
Overall Score: ****
Rating: PG-13

Cassie feels like her world is falling apart. Her best friend is no longer speaking to her, her older brother has left to fight in Iraq, her older sister has started drinking, her parents are fighting about the war, and her little brother with Down Syndrome has stopped speaking. And then she gets a school assignment that changes everything. Challenged to find a blog written by someone in another country she's lead to Blue Sky, a girl in Iraq whose world truly is falling apart. Forced to realize that there are two sides to every story Cassie sees that those in other parts of the world aren't much different than herself and not everything is black and white. She takes courage from Blue Sky's attitude and choices and works to change the world a little, right where she is.

This is story is both realistic and brave. The two girls have vastly different lives and you only get a taste of what Blue Sky goes through as the focus is primarily on Cassie, but you get caught up in both nonetheless. There is violence, some mild language, and discussions of alcohol and drug use but none of it is glorified, just be aware of your audience.

Color: A Natural History of the Palette
Author: Victoria Finlay
Pages: 448
Age Range: Adult
Published: 2003
Genre: Non-fiction
Cover Score: ****
Overall Score: ****
Rating: PG

Confession: I haven't quite finished reading this one yet. But I'm slowly working my way through the spectrum a bit at a time and thoroughly enjoying my journey.

Part travelogue, part history Finlay traces the origins of various colors, dyes and pigments and their uses through time. Each chapter walks the reader through the rainbow and around the world. Ochres from rocks in aboriginal Australia. Reds from Chilean insects. The still mysterious orange varnish used on Stradivarius' famous violins. Purple from sea snails. The rocks, plants and materials that are used to make the dyes have been the causes of war, lead to the birth and downfalls of nations, influenced economies and fashions and have, for the most part, become lost through time.

It's not overly scientific (perfect for me!) and the history is haphazard jumping from year to place as she discovers things but it's an interesting read all the same. There are discussions about various artists such as Michelangelo and Turner, many of whose works have faded with time due to using less expensive or tainted paints as well as images thousands of years old that are still vibrant due to their purity or 'perfect' recipes. She gives credit to the many people she meets along her journey and fills the pages with tidbits of intriguing facts. Curiously, for example, many dyes are often poisonous to those who create and use them. And many are distinctly cultural due not only to geological  reasons but weather conditions.

I'm amazed at the processes and ingredients that go into the creation of many of the dyes. Who thinks to pee on rocks, let them stew for days, heat them and then put your cloth into the concoction to see what will come of it? Fascinating.

There are maps and sketches throughout the text and a short inset in the middle with full-color photos, I only wish there had been more of them. Highly recommended though for anyone interested in art, history, science, travel, color, name it!

What have you been reading lately?

No comments:

Post a Comment