Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Every Bone Tells a Story

Jill Rubalcaba and Peter Robertshaw's book about archaeologists (and palaeontologists) and all of the other forensic scientists needed to correctly identify and make the scientific discoveries involved with the long dead has a fairly complex name, albeit one that more fully identifies the narrative included: Every Bone Tells a Story: Hominin Discoveries, Deductions, and Debates.
The titular "bones" belong to the 1.6M year old Turkana Boy, the Palaeolithic Lapedo Child, the 9,000 year-old bones of the Kennewick Man and the Iceman. While some of the stories have been included in other books or been the subject of books (particularly the Iceman), what makes this book stand out and will appeal to either teens interested in archaeology or science is the information gleaned from the discoveries. Notable examples of this include development of human language from the Turkana chapter and the information scientists gather from sites involving painstaking efforts which then gives them a picture of the existing vegetation, animal life, and evidence of human occupation.
Detailed examinations of each recovery includes reports on illnesses, potential causes of deaths and frequent debates among scientists when these reports did not jibe with the accepted science. Readers are given all sides of the arguments and will be left to make up their own minds. Each section includes photographs, concludes with websites and further readings and will find a home in school and public libraries. This title has been named a finalist for the 2011 YALSA Award of Excellence.
Review copy from publishers.

Monday, December 20, 2010

The Good, the Bad, and the Barbie by Tanya Lee Stone

Tanya Lee Stone's The Good, the Bad, and the Barbie: a Doll's History and her impact on Us combines several things: a history of one of the most ubiquitous toys in North America; consideration of the sociological implications of this polarizing wasp-wasted vixen; and a biography of the forward-thinking, ahead-of-her-times and incredibly astute business woman who not only came up with the original idea but also created and helmed Mattel with her husband.
I was never big on mutilating my own Barbies, perhaps because I didn't have brothers (although I was bribed at the age of 3 to serve as a flower girl by the promise of a Skipper) and the chapter on mutilation is highly amusing. A thorough history of the development of the company provides readers with a lot of information about Ruth Handler, whose accomplishments in the business world are impressive. Whether you believe that Barbie is evil or merely a toy, this book provides a wealth of remembrances to go along with the history. Readers who had their own barbies will enjoy the pictures: those new(er) to the doll will find her development interesting, and may be amazed to learn how popular she remains today. How big is Barbie? An ad for Toys R Us the other day mentioned that the hottest toys this year included a new Barbie dream house...

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Janis Joplin: Rise Up Singing

Ann Angel's Janis Joplin: Rise Up Singing was announced this week as one of the five shortlisted titles for the 2011 YALSA Award of Excellence for Nonfiction.
It is a testament to this book that the descriptions of Joplin's singing are particularly well done: Anyone who is not familiar with her voice can see clips of  her singing live on youtube. Angel's biography does not treat Joplin with kid gloves; instead, she presents an honest portrayal of a talented and insecure woman who died by an unfortunate and accidental overdose at the age of 27.
The book should be a strong contender for this year's award: the writing is great, the design is outstanding, the supplementary materials (including a timeline, notes, bibliography, and image credits for the plentiful photographs) are complete and the subject should be appealing to a very wide audience.