Book Reviews

What children say about children's books

Ask an adult what makes a children's book appealing, and she might talk about the colorful artwork, the clever storytelling or the lessons imparted.

Ask a child what makes a children's book appealing, and she might say, "It is weird and happy!"

Obviously, children and adults have different ideas about what makes a good children's book.

ALA President Offers Reading Suggestions for Gay Pride Month

June is when many gay and lesbian Americans celebrate their sexuality. In recognition of Gay Pride Month, Loriene Roy, President of the American Library Association tells listeners about books that highlight the lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender experience. Read &/or Listen at NPR.

This hour, On Point: Great summer reads, '08.

Every book lover knows the thrill. A hot summer day. A porch swing, a hammock, a long curve in the beach -- and a great, transporting read. Maybe it's lords and ladies that first took you there. Or Spanish romance. High plains gunfire. Down and dirty spies. High-blown history. Distant lands.

On Point Radio [MP3] is asking top book mavens for their recommendations this summer. They've got a white tiger, and fear and yoga in New Jersey. Black flies, a black dove, Gandhi, Churchill, and 1434.

Playing the Odds

In the New York Times:
Book review of THE DRUNKARD’S WALK
How Randomness Rules Our Lives.

State lotteries, it’s sometimes said, are a tax on people who don’t understand mathematics. But there is no cause for anyone to feel smug. The brain, no matter how well schooled, is just plain bad at dealing with randomness and probability. Confronted with situations that require an intuitive grasp of the odds, even the best mathematicians and scientists can find themselves floundering.

Suppose you want to calculate the likelihood of tossing two coins and coming up with one head. The great 18th-century mathematician Jean Le Rond d’Alembert thought the answer was obvious: there are three possibilities, zero, one or two heads. So the odds for any one of those happening must be one in three.

Read full review here.

The Times (UK) Reviews "Quiet, Please: Dispatches from a Public Librarian"

Caroline White Likes It: "These are not the shiny, happy Californians who people our cinema screens and magazines, but they are funny, illuminating and give Douglas's recollections a rawness with which the airbrushed memories of society's winners cannot compete."

The Future of History

Anne Applebaum's review of Nichoson Baker's book about World War II offers some good food for thought about the state of historical "research" in today's world and where we seem to be headed. Here is just one snippet. She compares Baker's book to The Da Vinci Code, saying they are both evidence of “the contemporary cult of the non-expert, or rather the anti-expert: the bloggers who assume that the ‘mainstream media’ is always wrong, the Wikipedia readers who think that a compilation of random anecdotes is always preferable to a learned study, and of course the college students who nowadays prefer to get their news in emails from friends because it is too bothersome to read a newspaper.”
Here's the link.

Completely Wrong

The following book review was posted by mdoneil is his blog. Because of all the controversy of the original post that got him to buy this book I figured I would move this over to a story.

mddoneil said in his blog:
I remarked earlier that I thought Prioleau Alexander's book, You Want Fries With That? would suck. I could not have been more wrong.

I got it from my local independent bookshop a couple of weeks ago, but I had not had time to read it. I took it with me to read on the plane last week. It was a scream. I called a friend from the airport to read part of the prologue -the dialogue between a RWM (me) and a South American father of 3. It was hilarious and yet absolutely correct.

Read complete blog post here.

THE RETURN OF HISTORY AND THE END OF DREAMS

Book Review in the NYT of:
THE RETURN OF HISTORY AND THE END OF DREAMS

When Bill Clinton was in the twilight months of his presidency, he made a compelling case that by integrating China into the world economy we would gradually undercut the viability of its authoritarian government. It was only a matter of time, he told an audience of American and Chinese students in March 2000, before a Net-savvy, rising middle class would begin to demand its rights, because “when individuals have the power not just to dream, but to realize their dreams, they will demand a greater say.”

Full review here:
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/05/18/books/review/Sanger-t.html?ref=books

COMMON WEALTH: Economics for a Crowded Planet.

Book Review in the New York Times:

COMMON WEALTH: Economics for a Crowded Planet.

The timing for Jeffrey D. Sachs’s new book on how to avert global economic catastrophe couldn’t be better, with food riots in Haiti, oil topping $120 a barrel and a gnawing sense that there’s just less of everything — rice, fossil fuels, credit — to go around. Of course, we’ve been here before. In the 19th century, Thomas Malthus teased out the implications of humans reproducing more rapidly than the supply of food could grow. In 1972, the Club of Rome published, to much hoopla, a book entitled “Limits to Growth.” The thesis: There are too many people and too few natural resources to go around. In 1978, Mr. Smith, my sixth-grade science teacher, proclaimed that there was sufficient petroleum to last 25 to 30 years. Well, as Yogi Berra once may have said, “It’s hard to make predictions, especially about the future.”

Full review here:
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/05/18/books/review/Gross-t.html?ref=books

The Bush's "Read All About It" Panned by the New York Times

"The belief that books aren’t “real” is exactly what keeps many kids from preferring to read, but while the first lady, Laura Bush, and daughter Jenna Bush are on target with their diagnosis in “Read All About It!” their course of recommended treatment is hard to follow, let alone swallow" says NYT reviewer Roger Sutton about this new title.

On the subject of "Read All About It" (oops, watch out, when you click this link you hear the authors speaking about their book)... Sutton asks "Whom is this book supposed to convince, and of what?" The main character, Tyrone Brown, (“professional student and class clown”) would say, (according to Sutton) "it’s not real. The point is laboriously made, the teachers’ names are dorky, the plot is hectic and the suspense and dialogue are artificial. What child today says “pesky”? (And anyone who has ever shelved books for minimum wage is likely to feel insulted by Tyrone’s aggrieved dismissal of the library: “All I will meet there are stinky pages.”)

Jenna's away on her honeymoon; maybe she won't get a chance to read the review.

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