Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Reel Culture by Mimi O'Connor

The subtitle of this book, 50 Classic Movies You Should Know About (So You Can Impress Your Friends), gives the reader a precise, if wordy, explanation for exactly what it contains.
They are, however, fun. Pithy sidebars entitled "Why All the Fuss? and "The Stuff People Still Talk About" offer viewpoints that help to convince people far under middle age why I needed to be in a lighted room after seeing Silence of the Lambs the day it came out, although they would probably laugh if they knew a friend was carded 3 times on the way into the film. Films range from classics (Casablanca) to tearjerkers (It's a Wonderful Life) to outright silly (Airplane!)  and are sure to offer something for everyone. If a few endings are blown, well, then, you can impress your friends and pretend to have seen the movie, too. It's always fun to see what other people think are the movies that you need to see. This list of great films from Zestbooks is a great light book.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Project Seahorse by Pamela Turner

This is the newest book in a line of award-winning and relevant titles that makes scientific enquiry approachable and fascinating while making environmentalism understandable and relatable, without being at all didactic. Turner's last book, The Frog Scientist made it all the way to the final in SLJ's Battle of the Books, and both of her books in 2009 were nominated for the 2010 Award of Excellence for Nonfiction for Young Adults.
I would not be surprised at all if Project Seahorse is nominated for the 2011 list: it shows the dangers faced by the various species of seahorses living in tropical waters due to factors including overfishing and then shows how scientists, working with local fishermen, were able to create an MPA (Marine Protected Area) and study its effectiveness in helping to revive the seahorse population. Noting that there are now 33 MPAs in Danajong Bank serves as an indication that there has continued to be a commitment among the local population in the Philippines to protect and nurture these creatures.
Readers will find a list of further resources: there isn't a list of picture credits, all of the photographs were taken by noted photographer Scott Tuason, whose own credits include several books about the coral reefs of the Philippines.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Frozen Secrets: Antarctica Revealed by Sally M. Walker

Sally Walker's Frozen Secrets is an absolutely beautiful book. I mean that literally. It combines stunning photographs of Antarctica with a page design that incorporates the icy background to which she is introducing readers in her text. Carolrhoda does this particularly well.

Frozen Secrets introduces readers to Antarctica, a continent that has long fascinated explorers (sorry,
Titus!) and one which took years, technological advances and a phenomenal amount of international cooperation in order to complete. The detailing of the hardships endured, as well as the technology necessary, the scientific efforts and advances and the environmental aspects of this book make this one which will be well worth adding to both public and school libraries. Not to mention that it is well-written, researched, illustrated, designed, indexed, has a great list of source notes, resources, and a suggested list for further reading.

Monday, August 9, 2010

They Called Themselves the KKK

Susan Campbell Bartoletti's They Called Themselves the KKK: the birth of an American terrorist group is a remarkable book. It gives readers a clear, compelling history of the origin and evolution of the Ku Klux Klan. This is not an easy thing to do: a chapter on the ending of the war and Reconstruction and its immediate aftermath helps to set the stage for an initial meeting of the six men from Pulaski. For many readers, this will be their first introduction to both the Klan and the men who created it.
The subsequent introduction to the spreading out of the Klan, its development of a set of "principles" and its members' acts are threaded throughout a text that also includes the ratification of the Fourteenth Amendment. This is a book that can be difficult to read: any time it seems that there is a step forward, as with an increase in public education, there are examples of vicious crimes, such as with William Luke, who was hanged for the crime of teaching (and likely over rumors.) There is an added poignancy in the text from a note he was allowed to leave for his wife and children before he was killed. Bartoletti makes several great points about the amount of violence fostered by fear, whether of change in the social order, retribution, or potential uprisings. An epilogue discusses hate crimes and notes current activities, reflecting that while there are a considerable number of hate groups in the United States today, they have neither "the power or the prestige" that the KKK did.
The copious illustrations and use of period speech add to the authenticity. The source notes indicate where Ms. Bartoletti found her information and add to this story. Indeed, learning that Ms Bartoletti attended a Klan congress will likely keep me up at nights.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Life-Size Aquarium

The third volume in the Seven Footer Press Life Size series arrived this week! After sharing it with my co-workers, I present to you: Life-Size Aquarium: Dolphin, orca, clownfish, sea otter, and more—an all-new actual-size animal encyclopedia !
Readers will be given the same crystal clear, up-close images from the earlier books, in oversize, occasionally fold-out (humphead wrasse, orca, walrus) pages. The information that is added to the pages is relevant, interesting and not something that is going to be found in a number of other books, given the uniqueness of some of the fish and animals that have been included.
The 'Leafy Sea Dragon' is shown across a large, double-page spread, on which readers are told that she is related to the seahorse. The sidebars include 3 sections. The first tells the reader that this fish is a female, as well as her approximate age if known, her scientific name, and her home. The second is called "Time for a Close Up" and gives the reader several things to look for, as well as explanations for them, followed by a third section with Facts about each animal. Breaking down information in this way and presenting these amazing pictures not only makes these books wonderful for outreach but makes them great books for ESL learners.