02. December 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Autobiographies, History, Memoirs, NonFiction, Pamela

I, Toto by Willard Carroll, read by Pamela, on 11/27/2013

I totoDuring the expansion of the Ventura Freeway in Los Angeles, Willard Carroll unearthed a leatherbound scrapbook from a site that was once a pet cemetery. To his amazement, its yellowing pages contained the rags-to-riches story of Terry, the cairn terrier who played Toto in the enduring film The Wizard of Oz. Reprinted here in its entirety, I, Toto traces the canine star’s tragic beginnings, her exhilarating film career, and her happy retirement in Southern California. Best of all, it offers the inside scoop on Toto’s signature role, her costars, and the making of The Wizard of Oz.

There are also some endearing passages about Terry’s (a.k.a. Toto) interaction with Clark Gable, Shirley Temple, and Spencer Tracy.  A book written from a dog’s point of view is not unique, but from this famous dog’s point of view it is unique.

Children and adults alike will like this book.  There are plenty of pictures to entertain the young ones while an adult reads the story.  It’s a very quick read and packed with lots of entertainment about a very special little dog.

19. November 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, History, NonFiction

The Lost Museum: The Nazi Conspiracy To Steal The World's Greatest Works Of Art by Hector Feliciano, Tim Bent (translator), read by Angie, on 11/18/2013

Hitler loved art and it was one of his goals to return many of the masters to Germany and to set up one of the best museums in the world. In order to do that he pillaged and plundered Europe. This book covers Paris and its stolen art and is based on an article written in France. I knew about the Nazi’s agenda to steal art, but I didn’t realize how systematic it was. Hitler and Goering were determined to find and send to Germany as much art as possible, most of which was taken from wealthy Parisian Jews. As in other areas during WWII, there was a lot of collaboration from the Paris art dealers. In fact the Paris art world was booming during this period. Art was going for outrageous prices (both high and low) and dealers were becoming really wealthy. None of the activities during the war really surprised me. What surprised me most was what happened after the war when the owners tried to get their possessions back. Barely half of the art stolen by the Nazis has been found and returned. There was a great deal of effort immediately after the war, but there was also a lot of stonewalling and dead ends. If the art ended up in Eastern Europe, it became the spoils of war or reparations for the Soviet Union. Most of that art has never been seen. If it ended up in Switzerland, a supposed neutral country, there was no recourse to get it back. Swiss law was such that it was almost impossible to claim stolen goods there even if you knew where they were. I think what really surprised me was the French museums and the auction houses. There are some 2000 pieces in French museums that are Nazi contraband and have never been claimed; however, the museums have made almost no effort to find the owners. The auctions houses are even worse. Places like Christie’s and Sotheby’s have sold stolen art repeatedly with little or no investigation into their provenances.

Of course all this information is from The Lost Museum. While I found the information really interesting, the book was not. It was not well written or easily readable. Part of this may be the translation, but that does not explain how boring it was in parts. I found myself skimming probably half of the book just to get through it. There are paragraphs long lists of paintings. The author also gives biographies of the Jews whose art was stolen, but spends very little time on the actual story of the theft. Instead of a laundry list of paintings, I would have preferred more on the actual story about the journey the art took and what happened to it after the war. There is some of this but not enough.

17. November 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, History, NonFiction · Tags:

Secrets of a Civil War Submarine: Solving the Mysteries of the H.L. Hunley by Sally M. Walker, read by Angie, on 11/17/2013

The H.L. Hunley was the first submarine to sink a ship in wartime. It was built during the Civil War and actually sank twice before completely a mission successfully. On February 17, 1864 the Hunley sank the USS Housatonic off the Charleston Harbor. Unfortunately, the Hunley never made it back to shore nor was it ever seen again. The Hunley was found buried in the mud in 1995. It took several years and lots of work before the Hunley revealed its secrets. Scientists still don’t know exactly why the Hunley sank with all eight crewmen aboard. However, the crew have now been put to rest while the investigation into the Hunley continues.

16. November 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, History, Madeline, NonFiction

Sugar changed the world : a story of magic, spice, slavery, freedom, and science by Marc Aronson, Marina Budhos, read by Madeline, on 11/06/2013

When this award-winning husband-and-wife team discovered that they each had sugar in their family history, they were inspired to trace the globe-spanning story of the sweet substance and to seek out the voices of those who led bitter sugar lives. The trail ran like a bright band from religious ceremonies in India to Europe’s Middle Ages, then on to Columbus, who brought the first cane cuttings to the Americas. Sugar was the substance that drove the bloody slave trade and caused the loss of countless lives but it also planted the seeds of revolution that led to freedom in the American colonies, Haiti, and France. With songs, oral histories, maps, and over 80 archival illustrations, here is the story of how one product allows us to see the grand currents of world history in new ways. Time line, source notes, bibliography, index.

16. November 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Autobiographies, Children's Books, History, NonFiction · Tags: ,

The Boy on the Wooden Box by Leon Leyson, read by Angie, on 11/14/2013

I couldn’t put this book down; I didn’t want to put it down. Leon Leyson captured my attention and held it throughout his entire story. We learn a lot about the Holocaust and what happened during those years, but I haven’t ever really read an autobiography about it. Leon Leyson was just a young boy when Germany invaded Poland. He and his family lived in Krakow and quickly began to feel the effects of the Nazi machine. Because his father had a job, most of his family was protected, but they were never really safe. His father worked for Oskar Schindler at his enamel factor and was one of the first on “the list”. Leon, his mother and his brother David also had their names added to the list. Unfortunately, two of his brothers did not; one fled to the country and one was rounded up during one of the ghetto cleansings. His sister worked for another factory and was protected until the end. Being on Schindler’s list did not necessarily mean full protection however. The family was still subjected to the ghetto and the guards who terrorized it. They were also all sent to concentration camps during the move from Krakow to Brunnlitz. This is a very compelling story of one family’s survival during the atrocities of WWII. Leon didn’t die horribly like so many others during that time. He survived, moved to America and became a teacher. It wasn’t until the release of Schindler’s List that he started to speak about his experiences. Leon Leyson was the youngest person on the list, but he was not the only one. Oskar Schindler’s bravery and dedication to saving his Jews was amazing. Reading this book made me want to learn more about Schindler (beyond what I remember from the movie!).

13. November 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, History, Informational Book, NonFiction, Teen Books

Unsettled: The Problem of Loving Israel by Marc Aronson, read by Angie, on 11/12/2013

Marc Aronson takes a look at the history of Israel and what it means to be Jewish in Israel. This is not a straight-forward historical book, but a personal soul-searching by the author. He does a lot of back and forth between the ideal Israel and the actual Israel. He also compares Israel to America and American Jews to Israeli Jews. Even though he does touch on some controversial topics in this book, it is still more of a personal journey about why Aronson does not live in Israel and what he wishes it was. It wasn’t exactly what I thought it was going to be and was a little difficult to read. Aronson never really comes to any conclusions, just back and forth on the topics he discusses.

08. November 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, History, Kristin

An Illustrated Timeline of Inventions and Inventors by Kremena Spengler, read by Kristin, on 11/05/2013

From controlling fire to the debut of the ipad, this book highlights the biggest advances in history.  The book is a 32 page timeline with illustrations and one or two sentence descriptions of the events.

I read this book with my 5 year old who was enthralled.  I found the illustrations to be clever and the descriptions gave just enough information that the reader didn’t get bogged down in the details, but still provided the necessary information.  It took us approximately 30 minutes over two evenings to read the book–that’s with many interruptions for side stories and questions.

I think this book serves as an excellent introduction to a number of topics.  Once the reader’s interest is peaked, he/she can delve into a specific subject more thoroughly through other books.

I would say this book would be good for a 8-10 year old as a read alone or as young as five if the child is being read to.

I just found that MRRL has a transportation timeline book by the same author, so look forward to that review soon.

06. November 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Biographies, Courtney, Graphic Book, History, NonFiction · Tags:

The Hypo: The Melancholic Young Lincoln by Noah Van Sciver, read by Courtney, on 10/26/2013

This graphic novel tells of a lesser-known chapter of Abraham Lincoln’s life. It begins well before his presidency, before his marriage to Mary Todd. It follows a young Lincoln through his early days as a struggling lawyer. Set-back after set-back drive Lincoln into a deep, dark depression that nearly kills him.
I must confess I did not know a whole lot about Lincoln’s early life as most historical documents focus on his presidency and the years leading up to it. This graphic novel presents a less-than-glamorous tale of a man trying to find his way in the world. The stylized artwork may not be to everyone’s liking, but this is still a very accessible book that adds an extra dimension to the life of one of America’s greatest historical figures.

02. November 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, History, NonFiction, Science

Sugar Changed the World: A Story of Magic, Spice, Slavery, Freedom, and Science by Marc Aronson, Marina Budhos, read by Angie, on 11/02/2013

Sugar is something we take for granted. It is always available at the store. It isn’t very expensive. We can add it to anything we want and it is in a lot of what we eat. And there are alternatives to regular brown or white sugar. This was not always the case. Sugar was an unknown until around a thousand years ago. However, once people got a taste of it they wanted more. It started out as a spice added to foods like any other spice, but then it separated itself from others and became a sweetener. As the demand for sugar grew, production also had to grow. Huge sugar plantations sprouted up throughout the Caribbean and South America. Millions of slaves were brought from Africa to work in the brutal plantations. More slaves actually than were brought to America. Sugar was a time sensitive crop the required back-breaking labor, hot fires, and lots of slaves.

This book starts with the stories of how Marc Aronson and Marina Budhos were connected to sugar and how they decided to write this book. Then we go into the history of sugar and the sugar/slavery connections. Next we see how sugar helped shape the world and abolish slavery. France, England, America, the Caribbean, India, Africa, Asia: slavery and sugar helped mold these places into what they are today. Slavery was abolished in many countries because of the sugar slaves. Gandhi started his peaceful resistance movement because of sugar slaves. It is amazing how many connections you can draw throughout history and the world all because of sugar. Aronson and Budhos did an excellent job highlighting these connection and writing a very readable nonfiction book.

30. October 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, History, NonFiction, Science

Mammoths and Mastodons: Titans of the Ice Age by Cheryl Bardoe, read by Angie, on 10/29/2013

Mammoths, mastodons and elephants are all cousins. They all appeared around the same time, but for some reason 10,000 years ago mammoths and mastadons went extinct. Scientists don’t know why they disappeared. The two leading theories are global warming or over hunting by humans. It is hoped that by studying mammoths and mastodons and why they went extinct a way can be found to help elephants who are endangered. This is a very informative, interesting and well-researched read.

28. October 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, History, NonFiction, Science

Written in Bone: Buried Lives of Jamestown and Colonial Maryland by Sally M. Walker, read by Angie, on 10/26/2013

Dead people are fascinating. Long dead people are a puzzle. Figuring out who skeletons were is a fascinating puzzle. This book by Sally Walker investigates the graves in and around the Chesapeake Bay. All the graves date from the 17th century and were some of the first people in the Jamestown colony. It is amazing what scientists can find out about people just from looking at their bones. Teeth have ridges: must have used some corrosive materials to clean them. Buried in a trash pit under a house: must have been an indentured servant who died. Small holes in bones: must have had rickets. Archaeologists are even able to figure out who exactly a person was just by where and how they were buried. This book highlights how graves are found and excavated, the steps taken to preserve the remains and what is learned from them. If you are a fan of CSI or Bones, you will definitely appreciate the science of this book.

23. October 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, History, NonFiction

Anubis Speaks! A Guide to the Afterlife by the Egyptian God of the Dead by Vicky Alvear Shecter , read by Angie, on 10/22/2013

Anubis finally gets to tell his story, or rather Ra’s story, in this entertaining and highly readable nonfiction book. The book details Ra’s journey through the underworld each night, what each hour of the journey entails and how Apophis tries to stop Ra. Along the way, Anubis also gives the reader a lot of detail on ancient Egyptian life, who the gods are and how they came to be and Egyptian myths and stories. Anubis must have been a pretty entertaining god because he is funny! I loved how he speaks directly to his audience and even includes them in the journey through the underworld. I thought his asides were hilarious. Books on Egyptian mythology are always popular and I think kids will respond really well to this one. I hope there is an entire series like this!

20. October 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, History, NonFiction

Blizzard of Glass: The Halifax Explosion of 1917 by Sally M. Walker, read by Angie, on 10/20/2013

On December 6, 1917, the city of Halifax, Nova Scotia was devastated by the largest man-made explosion. Two ships collided in the harbor, one carrying explosives. The shockwave and tsunami destroyed most of the town and left thousands dead, injured and homeless. Sally Walker takes us through the events leading up to the explosion, the aftermath and the recovery. She introduces us to several families whose lives were devastated and irrevocably changed that day. This is the kind of nonfiction I like to read. Walker gives us all the facts, but she includes personal accounts and writes in a narrative style that is extremely easy to read. I loved all the photos of the destruction that she included in this book. They really help illustrate just how destructive the explosion was. What really got me though was the stories of help from near and far, the doctors and nurses who worked around the clock, the soldiers and sailors who tirelessly searched for survivors, the workers who collected the dead and carefully cataloged them. All of these stories break your heart, but they also help you realize just how wonderful human beings can be when they see someone in need.

15. October 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, History, NonFiction

Terracotta Army and Other Lost Treasures by John Malam, read by Angie, on 10/13/2013

Another great offering in the Lost and Found series. This one deals with lost treasurers such as the terracotta army and the dead sea scrolls. We also learn about the Mildenhall Treasure found in a Suffolk field. A chest of Roman silver hidden under the ground was unearthed by a farmer. It was a rare hoard of highly decorated silver that was 2000 years old.

15. October 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, History, NonFiction

Pompeii and Other Lost Cities by John Malam, read by Angie, on 10/13/2013

I really like the format of this series. There is a two page spread on the history of the lost city and then a two page spread on how it was found. There are great little nuggets of history that will whet your appetite for more information. Everyone has heard of Pompeii and Machu Picchu, but little is known of Skara Brae or Akrotiri. It really made me want to find out more.

08. October 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Biographies, Children's Books, History, NonFiction

The Fairy Ring: Or Elsie and Frances Fool the World by Mary Losure, read by Angie, on 10/08/2013

Frances and her parents move in with Elsie’s family in Yorkshire during the Great War. Behind the house, in the beck (creek), Frances starts seeing fairies. One day she tells her family what she sees and Elsie says she sees them too. The adults want proof so the girls create fairy cutouts and take pictures with the fairies. Somehow word gets out and none other than Sir Arthur Conan Doyle starts corresponding with the girls to learn more about the fairies. Edward Garner starts lecturing around the country on the Cottingly fairies. The girls are forced to keep up their charade in order to avoid getting into trouble. They take another set of photos, but even that doesn’t stop the attention. They kept their secrets about doctoring the photos until almost the end of their lives; finally coming clean as elderly women. Mary Losure does a great job of telling Frances and Elsie’s stories. This was a very interesting and entertaining little book.

07. October 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Biographies, Children's Books, History, Joyce, NonFiction

The Fairy Ring: Or Elsie and Frances Fool the World by Mary Losure, read by Joyce, on 09/12/2013

The enchanting true story of a girl who saw fairies, and another with a gift for art, who concocted a story to stay out of trouble and ended up fooling the world.

Frances was nine when she first saw the fairies. They were tiny men, dressed all in green. Nobody but Frances saw them, so her cousin Elsie painted paper fairies and took photographs of them “dancing” around Frances to make the grown-ups stop teasing. The girls promised each other they would never, ever tell that the photos weren’t real. But how were Frances and Elsie supposed to know that their photographs would fall into the hands of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle? And who would have dreamed that the man who created the famous detective Sherlock Holmes believed ardently in fairies — and wanted very much to see one? Mary Losure presents this enthralling true story as a fanciful narrative featuring the original Cottingley fairy photos and previously unpublished drawings and images from the family’s archives. A delight for everyone with a fondness for fairies, and for anyone who has ever started something that spun out of control.

What do most people know about the Norman Conquest, if they know anything at all? They know that William the Conqueror came over to England from Normandy in 1066 and conquered England. That’s it for the most part. This book is a highly readable account of the years leading up to the Conquest in both England and Normandy, what led to William crossing the Channel and what happened after the invasion. The cast of characters in this book is enormous and many of them have the same name, but Marc Morris manages to make history come alive. It amazes me how much information does still exist from the Conquest since it was almost a thousand years ago. Sure there isn’t a lot, but the fact that accounts of events do still exist is amazing. Morris uses contemporary (meaning 11th century) sources to explain the events of the time. He isn’t afraid to point out inconsistency or lack of information. He does a great job extrapolating the truth or the most likely truth from the accounts. This book highlights how violent and turbulent the times where in the eleventh century. It is truly amazing that anyone survived! Morris does not shy away from exposing the brutality of the Conquest or how William used violence to subdue the people. However, it does show that the Normans were maybe not quite as violent as their English counterparts in everyday life. William had a huge impact on how things were done in England. He changed everything from the structure of society to religion to land management to slavery. William also started a building boom in England that is still evident today. Many of the churches and castles built during this time are still standing and in use. America is such a young country that it is often hard to comprehend the fact that there are thousand year old structures in England. If you are looking for a good read on the history of the Norman Conquest, I would recommend this book.

I did receive a copy of this book from Netgalley.com.

03. October 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Biographies, Children's Books, History, NonFiction

Bad Guys and Gals of the Wild West by Dona Herweck Rice, read by Angie, on 10/01/2013

This book gives us the biographies of some of the Wild West’s most notorious bad guys and gals. People like Billy the Kid, Belle Star, Doc Holliday are featured. We learn their history and how they became outlaws (in most cases). The book also asks what it truly means to be bad. It was an interesting look at the topic and the people in the book are all ones that kids would like to know more about. I do think the word “bad” is overused, but other than that it was a nice offering.

I did receive a copy of this book free from the publisher after attending a Booklist webinar.

03. October 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, History, NonFiction, Teen Books

"The President Has Been Shot!": The Assassination of John F. Kennedy by James L. Swanson, read by Angie, on 10/02/2013

The assassination of JFK was a pivotal moment in American history. James Swanson leads us through the lives of JFK and Oswald leading up to the assassination. He takes us step by step through the day of the assassination and the immediate days following. Swanson definitely has a bit of a bias in the way he treats Oswald. Not that Oswald was a good guy, but at one point Swanson even calls him evil and describes him in very derogatory terms. His attention to detail is very good however, with lots of source material and photos. This book is geared towards the older kid and some of the graphic explanations of what exactly happened to Kennedy may be too much for more sensitive readers.

I received this book from netgalley.com.