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November 2006

Rating System

5 stars: Completely enjoyable or compelling
4 stars: Good but flawed
3 stars: Average
2 stars: OK
1 star: Did not finish

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I Heard the Owl Call My Name: 11/30/06

I Heard the Owl Call My Name

What does one do for a friend who has only a year or two to live? Do you coddle him or challenge him? That's the premise of I Heard the Owl Call My Name. The bishop who is faced with this question, chooses to send his young ill vicar off to the hardest and most remote parish, a small village in British Columbia. The book covers the remaining months of the vicar's life without dwelling on his situation.

Instead, the book focuses on how the vicar learns the culture of the Kwakiutl and likewise how the Kwakiutl begin to slowly accept that the outside world is beginning to seep into their culture as their children seek education outside of the village.

Here is my BookCrossing Review

I Heard the Owl Call My Name is a tender story about two cultures learning from each other as seen through the eyes of a young vicar sent to Kingcome, a village in the Pacific Northwest. It's one of the few books where neither culture is favored in how they are portrayed. Both have their good bits and their bad bits. Characters have good days and bad days and are allowed to grow into well rounded individuals.

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Steps: 6000

The Kraken Wakes: 11/29/06

The Kraken Wakes

Giant squids have been inspiring horror stories for as long as man has taken to the seas. Since the development of science fiction, the kraken has moved from threat of the deep to threat from the skies. The Kraken Wakes begins a visitation from space but sinks to the deepest oceans where a threat lingers misunderstood and ready claim the seas and the shoreline from mankind.

It sounds like a great premise but the story is rather too ponderous. It takes forever for things to get moving. The main characters, reporters from a rival to the BBC don't know enough about what's happening to be credible or interesting first hand witnesses to this invasion. The best and most horrific part of the book is the cover art which reminds me of how Eric Carle would illustrate Call of Cthulhu.

Here is my BookCrossing Review:

Apparently the world ends with people living on tiny islands surrounded by hostile creatures; it's the same ending that Wyndham used in Day of the Triffids. The Kraken Wakes has a very similar narrative, that of a man recording the events that lead up to him living on an island surrounded by hostile creatures, in a book report fashion. There is very little in terms of character development or drama. The Watsons are so dispassionate through the entire book that I frankly didn't care what happened to him.

There are a few good scenes, like the initial landing of the fire balls (presumably pods from space), the attacks on the islands and the flooding of London. Unfortunately these scenes were hidden among long and boring laundry lists of mundane events.

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Steps: 6000

Divided by a Common Language: 11/28/06

Divided by a Common Language

As Divided by a Common Language notes, 70% of the world's native English speakers are American but British English is the most common dialect taught as a second language in the rest of the world. In the nearly two and a half centuries of independence have given rise to two very different dialects of English. The book says it serves as a must have survival guide for British tourists on holiday to the United States. While there are some useful tips, I hope this isn't their only guide as there are many mistakes in the the American side of things.

The author of the book is a British ex patriot who spent time living abroad first in New Zealand before settling in Florida. This book's lexicon and descriptions of the differences of life the UK versus life in the US. Unfortunately Florida is just one region of the United States and not necessarily a good one for extrapolating how the rest of the nation works (or talks)!

Here is my BookCrossing Review:

I enjoyed Divided by a Common Language but Christopher Davies didn't understand the United States as much as he thought he did when he wrote this book. There are many goofy assumptions about the United States and at least one error about British English. This copy is a first edition, a second one was published in 2001. Having not read that version, I'll hope that some of these errors have been corrected.

In the meantime, I plan to hold onto this book for a little longer. I want to do a series of blog posts about some of the sillier assumptions I found in this book. I don't plan to tear the book apart, just to use it as a starting point for an ongoing discussion on language.

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Steps: 6000

A Beautiful Mind: 11/27/06

A Beautiful Mind

Since I began reading A Beautiful Mind the question I've been asked most is: "How does it compare to the movie?" The simple answer: I don't know. I have not seen the film and after reading the book I have no desire to either. Even after having read the entire book from cover to cover and looking at the scant number of photographs included I come away feeling like I've learned very little about John Nash beyond what I already knew.

The first third of the book serves more as a who's who in Nash's life than as a biography of Nash. Even Princeton University has a chapter. Princeton is a fairly well known institution, it doesn't need to be introduced as a character! The second third covers all of Nash's sexual exploits or potential exploits with men and women. Yawn. The final third deals with his mental breakdown and the people who tried to help him pull out of it. The final third was the most interesting piece of the book but it comes too late to save the book from being an over all dull and pointless read.

It's Raining:

It has rained on and off since yesterday. When we woke up, the sky was cold and clear. Now at noon, the heavens have clouded over and opened up. Of course it started raining right when Ian is trying to come home with groceries.

Sean has a new sweatshirt with a hood (the typical "hoodie" that youths in Britain are always in trouble for wearing) which he is proudly wearing to preschool today. I'm glad he's wearing it with the change in the weather. His yellow jacket has lost its hood and it is too small now anyway.

The recently planted herbs are very happy with the recent rains. We have cilantro, dill and parsley growing now in the pots. The cilantro is tall enough that we've harvested some of it and it was very tasty. It will be some time before we get to harvest the other two herbs.

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Steps: 6000

Hop on Pop: 11/26/06

Hop on Pop

Hop on Pop was one of my brother's favorites as a child and I remember how we would laugh when Mom would get tongue tied reading the book out loud. Now that Sean is old enough, it is one of his favorites. In fact, today at Denny's, he read the book to all of us while we were waiting to give our order.

Hop on Pop is a book heavy on short and rhyming words. Each page starts with a list of rhyming words like: day, play and then a simple sentence (or two) using those rhyming words. The book is simple enough and predictable enough to give beginning readers the confidence to try reading. But it's tricky enough to give over confident parents places to trip up and make mistakes to the amusement of the younger readers.

Dr. Seuss Reviews

Steps: 3500

A Parrot in the Pepper Tree: 11/25/06

A Parrot in the Pepper Tree

Two years ago I read and enjoyed Driving Over Lemons, the memoir of a British ex-pat and his family's life in Spain. A Parrot in the Pepper Tree is the follow up book, covering the time when Stewart was writing his first book along with some memories from his youth.

While I felt the bits about his attempt at being a rock star were rather dull, the rest of the book more than makes up for one skip-worthy chapter. The majority of his book takes place in the year when he was writing his first memoir. He describes all his different attempts at farming including a bleak winter drive into Sweden to shear sheep and a go at growing potatoes. Neither venture goes well but he takes the disasters with a good sense of humor. To his sup rise, he succeeds as a writer even though his daughter insists that he can't write (at least in Spanish).

Here is my BookCrossing review:

It took me longer to read than expected but I thoroughly enjoyed it. Chris Stewart is an enthusiastic ex-pat making a living in Spain with his wife and daughter. He tries his hand at sheep sheering, farming and flamenco but ultimately it is writing that he excels at.

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Steps: 3500

The Golden Fury: 11/24/06

The Golden Fury

Earlier this month I purchased The Golden Fury at a bookstore called The Bookstore. I chose it because it had a lovely map on the flyleaf. It was also published in 1949 which is sort of too new for most books I like but the map won me over. In between books that I was reading for other BookCrossing members (either as rings or relays) I took the time read and enjoy The Golden Fury.

The book had moments that felt very real and the way Colorado was described as being at the start of the 20th century (1886 through 1906) reminded me a great deal of how Laura Ingalls Wilder described growing up in the Dakotas. In other words, Castle avoided many of the cliches that are rife in the Western genre. Curious, I did a quick search on Marian Castle and found a biography which confirmed my suspicions. Like Caroline, she was the daughter of a preacher and grew up in the frontier towns of Colorado. Her life though was much easier than what she created for her characters.

Here is my BookCrossing review:

The Golden Fury chronicles a woman life in Colorado, from her childhood as the impoverished daughter of a preacher too wrapped up in the word of God to care for his children, to her early marriage, time as a single mother, and later the owner of a silver mine, while all the time looking for stability and laughter in her life. Though the story is cloaked as a romance, it is written with a harsh view on reality, often times with asides from the author that mock her characters' apparent naivety.

The book's main weakness is its ending. The book ends in a Perils of Pauline fashion that completely breaks with the gritty reality of the rest of the tale. The last chapter is rife with melodrama in the form of an out of control automobile, a collapsed bridge, and a raging river! If only the book had ended in a less silly fashion I would have rated the story a 10 out 10.

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Steps: 3500

Big Work Machines: 11/23/06

Big Work Machines

Big Work Machines is the last of the books from Connor that I've read and of the four I've read so far, it's my favorite. Since Sean was about two, he has been fascinated by construction machines and other big trucks. He comes by it naturally; I've loved them too since I was a toddler. "Big Work Machines" as Relf calls them have been a favorite topic of conversation since Sean's been able to talk. Unfortunately neither of us have known all the proper names for these machines but now with this book, we do! The book is divided up by different sorts of tasks from construction to mining and other jobs. Each section is beautifully illustrated to show the machines at work.

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Steps: 3500

Follow the ZookeeperFollow the Zookeeper: 11/22/06

Follow the Zookeeper is similar in style to A Day in the Jungle. In this book, the monkey has been replaced with the zookeeper who is making his rounds over the course of a normal day at the zoo. Each stop the zookeeper makes gives the reader a chance to learn something new about an animal. Unfortunately the illustrations err on the side of being too cute while the text itself is rather dry. As I turned each new page I was increasingly struck with the reaction of "oh look, more cute animals doing boring things." Though the book is only 32 pages long, it was a chore to read. I will have to see what Sean's reaction to the book is. We will be reading it together over the holiday weekend.

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Steps: 3500

How Things Grow: 11/21/06

How Things Grow

How Things Grow is written as a dialogue between the narrator and the little girl shown on the cover watering her garden. The book starts with the seasons and then goes on to discuss different plants and animals and how they grow. The illustrations diagram what the text covers, such as the life cycle of the frog or how chickens develop inside of eggs. Interestingly, the rooster is noticeably absent from the page describing how chickens grow in eggs. The book ends with the narrator reminding the little girl that she too is growing, having started as a baby. I like the inclusion of the little girl's accomplishments as Sean and I have been having very similar discussions as he compares what he can do and what Harriet can't do yet. I plan to hold onto this book to read to Harriet as she gets older.

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Steps: 6000

A Day in the Jungle: 11/20/06

A Day in the Jungle

Sean's friend Connor gave him a whole bunch of his old books at the last BookCrossing meeting. I am going through the process of reading them and will be reviewing them as a I go: A Day in the Jungle is the first of these books. The book follows Silkie, a "young Colobus monkey" as he goes on his first solo adventure through the jungle. Silkie's adventures introduce young readers to the diversity of the rain forest: sun birds, royal pythons, lilytrotters, leopards, gorillas, and so on. Unfortunately not all of the creatures Silkie meets are labeled and none of the plants are, leaving an incomplete view of the rain forest. Before I read this book to Sean I will need to research what these plants and insects are because I know Sean will ask me about them. So while the book sets out to be both entertaining and educational, it falls short on the educational side. The story itself is okay as a laundry list of a Colobus monkey's typical day but it too is lacking.

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Steps: 5000

The Blue Day Book: 11/19/06

Blue Day Book

Bradley Trevor Greive's second book The Meaning of Life is one of the best traveled books on BookCrossing. It was through that world traveling book that I was first introduced to these advice books that combine common sense and cute photographs of animals. The Blue Day Book as the title and cover art implies gives some tips on how one can get over the blues when having a really bad day. All of the photographs are black and white and show animals in poses that either evoke an emotion or show the animal having his own bad day.

Harriet also enjoyed the book, looking at the various animals. I remember doing the same thing with Sean with the Meaning of Life book when he was an infant.

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Steps: 7000

Storage: 11/18/06


I picked up Storage from the last BookCrossing meeting. The one thing most of us agree on is that we don't have enough room for things (especially books). We all seem to have the same goal: read and more release more books than we receive. Although I wasn't looking for specific advice on our storage problems, I wanted to read the book because it was short, had great photographs and the cover amused me.

Storage is not a step-by-step how-to book. It will not give a to do list of things to make one's storage problems suddenly vanish. Instead it is a small set of suggestions divided up my topic (either by storage device or by room). Most often the book gives multiple suggestions for a type of storage problem instead of one correct way. I liked this approach to the problem; it is okay to be different when tackling storage problems.

Here is my BookCrossing Review:

Storage for all its gloss and full color photography does have some practical advice about storage and de cluttering. What I liked best about the book is how it gives many different options to accomplish a storage problem without pushing one option over another.

Harriet liked the book for its bright and colorful photography. She's especially fond of the rain slickers on the cover and page 40 which shows a bowl full of red balls sporting white polka dots.

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Steps: 7000

Trains: 11/17/06


I have always liked trains. They have been a part of my life since the very beginning. My grandparents lived on the ridge of Rose Canyon in San Diego. On the canyon's floor a single track connects San Diego with points north as it winds its way through the canyon and in behind Mira Mesa, thereby circumventing the Miramar Navy base.

For my entire childhood, my maternal grandmother's home was my day care and after school place to go. When I was Sean's age, grandmother and I would run out to the back fence when we'd hear a train blow its horn. I would stand on a red chair (now in Sean's room) and stare out to the tracks to catch a glimpse of the train. Sometimes it was an Amtrak train but often times it was a freight train. The freight trains were the best because they were so colorful.

When I was in college, my main mode of transportation for the holidays was Amtrak between Del Mar and Santa Barbara. Then as a young newly wed, again I was riding the train, this time between Los Angeles and Solano (the Del Mar station had closed).

So when Sean and his friend Connor had picked out Trains by Byron Barton, I was thrilled. Trains, though just a children's board book, captures the excitement and magic of traveling by train. It goes through a typical day on a train, each beautifully illustrated in a bold style that young children will enjoy.

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Steps: 7000

Marine Aquariums: 11/16/06

Marine Aquariums: A Complete Introduction

When I was growing up we had an aquarium in our home. It was a fresh water aquarium with a school of guppies. We even had a guppy nursery that hung off the side to keep all the babies. The aquarium sat near the entry way to the home so it was one of the first things anyone saw when coming to the house (the other thing was a cabinet phonograph which is still there). My job was to feed the fish but my mother took charge of the periodic cleaning and water changing.

Later we downsized to a single fish, a beta fish whom we called "Typhoid Mary." Actually she was more my brother's fish although we all shared in the feeding duties. Mom, though, was still the one who cared for the cleaning and water changing duties. I don't know (or don't remember) what happened to Typhoid Mary but it's been a few years since my parents had any fish.

At home I don't keep any fish. We're a one pet family, and that pet is Caligula. However, when I saw Marine Aquariums: A Complete Guide among the books that Whytraven gave me to register and release for her I had to read it. Back at the same time when we had the fish, we also did a lot of sailing as a family out on Mission Bay and every so often one of us would suggest (Dad, John or I) that we get a salt water aquarium since we lived so close to the beach. Mom, I'm pretty sure, was the one to put the kabosh on that idea. So I was curious, just how hard is a marine aquarium?

The answer seems to be, very hard. The book makes it sound like it's just a series of simple steps but knowing the chaos that is my family, I would be certain to get goof it up and kill my fish or break something and make a mess. I know from personal experience that like my mother, I would be the one taking care of the fish and frankly, I don't want to! Plus we have no where to put an aquarium and I'm sure Caligula would try to catch all the fish. No, I think I'll just stick with one cat at a time.

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Steps: 5000

Uncle Elephant: 11/15/06

Uncle Elephant

What happens when an uncle is faced with the possibility that his nephew is now an orphan? That's the story of Uncle Elephant. Arnold Lobel treats this tough story with kindness, humor and heart. His illustrations show the heart break on both the uncle and the nephew even though neither character ever admits his pain to the other. The words, though chosen to be easy for young readers, are put together to show just how people in grief take measures to put up a strong front to the world. Although Uncle Elephant has a happy ending, the book still serves as gentle advice for dealing with real loss.

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Steps: 7000

The Dead Zone: 11/14/06

The Dead Zone

I enjoyed reading The Dead Zone, enough so to stay up to finish it. It's quite a page turner and it is an interesting comparison between the political atmosphere of the 1970s to that of today. As with then we have a war (that isn't "officially" a war), corruption in politics and a president of questionable merit (I'm being generous).

The book also shows a young author still playing with different methods of story telling. The Dead Zone has about five different voices as the story John Smith, everyman, psychic and martyr is unfolds. Some of the techniques used work better than others with the strongest pieces being the first two thirds of the book and the most experimental pieces being in the last third.

Here is my BookCrossing review:

I can see why this book was turned into a television series. The story lends itself to that format with its episodic nature and strong visual descriptions. I have the same problems with the book now as I did with the miniseries that launched the show: the pacing between the sections of the book is rather jarring as it jumps from book to book. The first third of the story builds slowly, almost too slowly as Johnny discovers his gift and then suffers his accident. The second part where Johnny wakes up and solves the first crime is paced just right; it reads like a nice quick mystery-thriller and has a compact ending. Then the book speeds through a third section that is really two more stories: Johnny sees the future and saves some lives and Johnny sees the future (or thinks he does) and decides to end a life before that person can become the next Hitler. I really don't like the last piece in either the book or the miniseries because it's too much of a change in personality for Johnny. He rapidly transforms from a hands off, let the word do its thing, to a one man super hero / martyr without even blinking.

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: 7000

I Spy Mystery: 11/13/06

I Spy Mystery

When Sean was one or two my mother's friend Linda gave him I Spy Spooky Night for Christmas which has been a favorite of his books since then. This past weekend we found this older copy of I Spy Mystery (the newest edition has a photograph of marbles on the cover) and I'm this book will become one of Sean's favorites too.

The I Spy books are a play on the children's game of "I Spy" a game I played often during long car trips except that each book is themed. I Spy Mystery centers around buried treasure, a sunken ship and some other shenanigans. Most of the items photographed are miniatures and toys though what is often being sought in the riddles isn't as obvious as the photograph would first imply. The photographs themselves are deceptively simplistic. A photograph of a green house would appear to be nothing but flowers but may in fact hide things like anchors or race cars.

I Spy Mystery seems to be a tougher book than I Spy Spooky Night. I've read the book now twice and still haven't found all the mentioned items!

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Steps: 5000

Morris and Boris at the Circus: 11/12/06

Morris and Boris at the Circus

The Morris and Boris books are another set I was introduced to by my husband and his family. I personally don't enjoy them as much as either the Frog and Toad series by Arnold Lobel or the George and Martha series by James Marshall. Morris and Boris's friendship doesn't make any sense in this book. They never seem to like each other and they are always arguing.

In Morris and Boris at the Circus, Morris decides to join the circus. Before the Ringmaster will hire him he has to prove himself during a show. Boris tries to help Morris do a variety of things (acrobat, lion tamer, performing dog, etc.) and he fails horribly at each task. Part of Morris's problem is he's an idiot and a lot of story is wasted on Boris having to explain things to Morris repeatedly. Morris does finally succeed at the expense of Boris. You can probably guess how.

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Steps: 3500

Air Disaster Volume 1: 11/11/06

Air Disaster Vol. 1

There are many ways to test a new invention or a modification but sometimes things are missed or not even thought of until something fails. In the case of airplanes, a failure often times results in loss of life. Air Disaster Volume 1 follows the lessons learned from various jet airplane crashes. The stories aren't overly technical but their presentation in the form of an oversized book and three column layout with a tiny font makes for difficult reading. I also found the presentation of the stories rather dry and in the process noticed a number of typographical errors.

The best and most informative part of Air Disaster is how it is illustrated. Each chapter has many charts, diagrams and photographs from the crash being discussed. There are at least three volumes in this this series but I'm not inspired enough to read further.

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Steps: 10000

My Very First Book of Shapes: 11/10/06

My Very First Book of Shapes

Sean brought home another shape book from preschool called My Very First Book of Shapes, written and illustrated by Eric Carle. It is one of the best introduction to shapes books I've seen. It has a wider variety of shapes than most books do. Each shape is also labeled and with the variety of shapes, beginning readers will be introduced to words they may not have had to read before. For instance, Sean has now learned the word almond. Of course the book has the lovely paper collage illustrations by Eric Carle which gives the book a vibrancies and personality. Finally, the book is a matching game. The pages are cut in the middle with a Carle illustration on one half and a black silhouette on the other half. Readers of the book are asked to match the black shape with the Carle picture. As the shapes aren't in order the book is somewhat challenging than a more traditional shape book.

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Steps: 7000

Dame Edna Everage: 11/09/06

Dame Edna

There's a long British tradition of men dressing up as women on the stage going back to Elizabethan times and more recently in the Panto. Of course, Dame Edna and her creator, Barry Humphries, is Australian, but many of the traditions are the same and certainly the historical heritage is the same.

John Lahr took on the Herculean task of interviewing Barry Humphries for this book but you'll see that the book sports his most famous character's name: Dame Edna Everage and the Rise of Western Civilisation. Of the 274 pages of text, maybe forty pages are actually about Humphries. The bulk of the book is filler about waiting for a show to start and older gags and of course Dame Edna's "life."

Barry Humphries' instance on staying in character as Dame Edna for all of his public events makes me think of the San Diego Chicken aka Ted Giannoulas. That damn chicken started as a lame radio advertising campaign (thanks KGO!) and went on to be a piece of San Diego culture that could not be escaped. The chicken ended up being the mascot of the Padres for a while (and pretty much any other venue in San Diego). I remember in junior high there was a lot of hubbub over discovering the Chicken's true identity. It was stupid then and it is stupid in this book.

Here is my BookCrossing Review:

My husband enjoyed this book more than I did. He found many of the passages amusing enough to laugh. I found myself struggling to read the book, bored at being back stage with a celebrity who was treating his interviewer horribly. If anything, Lahr got back at Humphries but recounting just how awful it was to write this book.

I suppose fans of Humphries' and his characters (Edna and Les) would love this book. Humphries apparently rarely broke character while Lahr was trying to write this book and was therefore forced to write more about the characters than the man behind them (yawn). While I went into this book finding Edna somewhat funny (and never having heard of Les) I'm now bored with both of them. The best story in the entire book was how the show boomed in New York. Humphries seemed completely baffled that anyone might not find his shtick funny.

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Steps: 5000

Tiger with Wings: 11/08/06

Tiger with Wings

I know I've mentioned many times Sean's fascination with owls. Whenever I can find a children's book about owls I get it. One of the more educational books Sean has in his owl library is Tiger with Wings. The story follows a mother owl over the course of a year as she hunts, finds a mate, and cares for her young. The illustrations by Mary Barrett Brown really capture the owl in all its beauty and power.

Even though it's a children's book I've learned a few things about the Great Horned owl. For instance, I had no idea that the owl is large enough and strong enough to hunt skunks and cats. This species of owl is at the top of the food chain, up there with mountain lions and other large predators.

Here is my BookCrossing Review:

I got this for my son. It's designed for kids in elementary school but he so loves great horned owls that I figured we could enjoy the pictures now and later read the book together. He does love looking at the pictures and the text is very informative. The illustrations are gorgeous!

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Steps: 5000

So You Want to be a Wizard: 11/07/06

So You Want to be a Wizard

New York City, especially Manhattan island, is a popular place for paranormal activity in fiction. There are often times gates to other universes (think of the two in the Ghost Busters movies) and in So You Want to Be a Wizard, there is a gate to a very strange alternate New York. Two novice wizards, Kit and Nita, travel to this alternate New York while innocently trying to recover Nita's lost pen. Can they get home and save the world at the same time?

While the book is a fairy typical young teen discovers magic is real type of story, I quickly found myself sucked into it. I liked how easily the wizardry fit into the modern world without a separation of societies into muggles and wizards as in the Harry Potter books. Wizardry in Duane's books can be a serious occupation or a hobby or somewhere in between.

My one complaint with the book (though this is more a complaint with book two) is the amount of time Duane spends on describing the Speech, a universal language that all wizards and all things in the universe can speak except apparently human adults who have forgotten how to speak it. I like the concept of a universal form of communication but Duane's endless descriptions of how it works and how wonderful it is often time stalls the plot.

Fortunately there is enough humor and horror to keep the plot moving. On the humor side, there is Fred, an eager white hole who is excellent at making diversions for Kit and Nita. On the horror side there are the living vehicles (cars, trains, helicopters, and elevators) who are bent on killing each other and eating anything that gets in their way; I will never look at hydrants the same way again!

Here is my BookCrossing Review:

After having struggled to read the second book, Deep Wizardry, I was surprised at how quickly I was sucked into this story. I'm a sucker for paranormal high jinx and horror in cities such as New York. Throw in a parallel universe and killer sentient automobiles, and a dragon living in an abandoned subway station -- it's my kind of fantasy!

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eps: 5000

One Fine DayOne Fine Day: 11/06/06

Over the weekend we found this book at the used book store we were visiting. As Sean has the first George and Martha book, we had to get One Fine Day. Although these books were published when I was a child and my husband grew up with them, I didn't start reading them until I was married. My in laws introduced them to me. So when I read them I always think of my mother and father in law!

The summary in the front of the book describes the story as the continuing friendship of two hippopotamuses. From the books I've read, I've always gotten the impression that George and Martha are a married couple. That doesn't mean they can't also be friends but there is a greater implied intimacy between the two than just a friendship.

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eps: 5000

Astonishing Splashes of Colour: 11/05/06

Astonishing Splashes of Colour

I read the book because of title and I enjoyed the few moments here and there when Clare Morrall played up her book's connection to Peter Pan but for the most part Astonishing Splashes of Colour left me bored. Kitty for a variety of reasons is a thirty-something adult who refuses to grow-up. It's not that she's young at heart or playful, she doesn't want to face the harsh reality that life can sometimes throw at a person.

Of course, there must be reasons for Kitty's withdrawal from the real world because people don't just break, at least that's what Morrall is implying. And rather than come up with anything "astonishing" or "colorful" she goes with humdrum and hackneyed. Kitty's family must be hiding a dead dark secret from her and if that's not enough, she's also suffered a mysterious still birth. Of course she can now, for no apparent reason try again for another child. Instead she is forced to wallow in the life that might have been for her if things had worked out differently. Whatever.

I've ready many positive reviews of the book and it was short listed in 2003 for the Man Booker Prize but I just don't see what all the praise is for. Sure, the book does have some interesting passages and I did love the first chapter, but the story doesn't go anywhere except down a very crowded and cliche ridden path followed by so many other books.

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Steps: 3

A House for Hermit Crab: 11/04/06

A House for Hermit Crab

Sean borrowed another new book from preschool. He chose a delightful one by Eric Carle called A House for Hermit Crab. It is Carle at his best; it is pretty to look at, a sweet story about friendship and one that teaches about real sea creatures.

In this story a hermit crab must chose a new shell as he has out grown his old one. His new shell is rather boring so he decides to decorate it with other creatures and plants that live in the sea. Each month he finds a new friend to decorate his home. Of course by the end of the year when his home is perfect it is also too small! Now the hermit crab must learn about sharing and start decorating a new home.

Sean's choice of this book is timely because he has already decided what he wants to be for Halloween next year. He has decided to be a pikmin and he wants me to start on his costume now. I have been explaining to him that if I start now he will be too tall for the costume by the time we would finish it in October of next year. I've told him that we should wait until his 5th birthday to start or else we'll have to share his costume with a four year old just as the hermit crab had to share his home with a smaller hermit crab at the end of the year.

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Junie B. Jones and the Mushy Gushy Valentime: 11/03/06

Mushy Gushy Valentime

Sometimes books just find me. It seems that the books that find me end up being the most enjoyable reads. My most recent read of a book like this is Junie B. Jones and the Mushy Gushy Valentime by Barbara Park. This one is a book that Sean picked out at the last BookCrossing meeting by pulling it off the Dublin Friends of the Library shelf.

The title and the cover illustration told me it would be a quick read but I had the feeling I wouldn't enjoy it. It just seemed too cute. I decided to give it a read when I was stuck on a much harder book and needed a little fluff for my brain. By the bottom of the first page, I was in love with the book: "A 'nouncement is the school word for listen to me... and I MEAN it."

Barbara Park clearly understands how kids that age (four to six) think. So many of things that Junie B. says and thinks are things that could have come out of Sean's mouth or the mouths of his friends. I was laughing on almost every page.

Here is my BookCrossing review:

As a parent of a child who is almost ready for kindergarten, I found this book about a Valentine's Day party very funny. Junie B's narration with all of the types of mistakes I've heard my son and his friends make made me laugh. The teacher's exasperation at some of the children's antics rings true too.

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Melanie Mouse's Moving Day: 11/02/06

Melanie Mouse's Moving Day

Melanie Mouse's Moving Day is the second of the two Cyndy Szekeries books we own. This book has more of a plot than Hide-and-Seek Duck. As the title implies, Melanie Mouse is moving. At first she is reluctant to move when her parents are ready to move house but what can a little mouse do?

Like the story about Duck, most of the pages are taken up with Melanie saying good-bye to all her different animal friends. There are also scenes of packing and the actual move and finally the making of new friends.

Children who are facing a move or have just moved may find some comfort in this book. It shows the good and the bad of moving. There is the work of packing and moving. There is the sadness of saying goodbye to old friends and happy places but there is also the adventure of meeting new friends and making new memories.

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Hide-and-Seek Duck: 11/01/06

Hide-and-Seek Duck

I think my mother gave me Hide-and-Seek Duck and Melanie Mouse's Moving Day. Anyway, it's a typical children's book with cute baby animals wearing clothing playing together blissfully like we parents wish our children would. In this case, the game is hide-and-seek and the seeker is a little duckling, creatively named "Duck."

Duck is looking for his bunny friend. On his search he runs into a variety of other animal friends. Each page then is filled with a delightful full color illustration of Duck and his encounter with one of his friends. These sorts of stories are the type Sean enjoys. They're repetitive. They have animals he knows. They have the animals doing something he can relate to like playing a favorite school yard game.

For me, I like the illustrations. In this case, the author is also the illustrator. Cyndy Szekeres has a style of drawing reminiscent of Beatrice Potter. Her animals and scenes are both naturalistic and anthropomorphic. She uses a soft and warm pallet that is engaging and inviting.

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