As I mentioned in my last post, I’ve been catching up on old episodes of This American Life.  I recently got an ipod (Thanks, Mom!), and I’ve been devouring all the podcasts that I never had an opportunity to listen to before.  Mainly TAL and Radiolab.  Both of which, strangely enough, keep intersecting with my reading life.  Here are a few examples:

  • Just after I finished Sum by David Eagleman (also mentioned in the last post), I heard a Radiolab episode in which the opening story of the book was read.  David Eagleman has also appeared on the show in his role as neuroscientist, if I recall correctlly.
  • Kathleen Krull’s newest biography in the “Giants of Science” series, Charles Darwin, appeared on my desk not long after I listened to the Darwinvaganza podcast from Radiolab.
  • While I was reading Short Bus and mentally composing the blog post that mentions it, I listened to a Radiolab episode entitled “Diagnosis” in which a young man is not diagnosed with austism until adulthood.  The question of whether interventions at a younger age, including special ed classes, would have helped or hurt comes up.
  • I read Mamba Point by Kurtis Scaletta about a boy’s connection with a poisonous snake that bites his brother, and then I listened to a TAL episode in which a man tells a story about a snake bite incident in his childhood where he had to save the day when a man is bitten by a poisonous snake.
  • The science experiment in Kenneth Oppel’s Half Brother might seem kind of crazy, but apparently it actually happened.  So I learned in this episode of Radiolab.

Crazy, isn’t it?

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What if?

Sum by David Eagleman

I have always enjoyed a good “What if?”, so I was eager to read David Eagleman’s new book of short stories exploring the possibilities of what happens after death.  I was not disappointed.  What if god is a married couple and we live as their children after we die?  What if…  The stories are brief but fascinating.
Right around the time that I read Sum, I happened to be catching up on old episodes of This American Life, including the 2008 episode entitled Poultry Slam in which Shalom Auslander reads a story from his book Beware of God in which God is a chicken.  What if you knew something that could make life easier for the people you love?  Would you tell them?  Would they believe you?  Not everyone is comfortable with these kinds of “What if?” questions dealing with god or the afterlife.  I remember a bit of controversy when Cynthia Rylant’s book of poetry about God exploring life on earth came out.   I loved it, by the way.  It was funny, insightful, and poignant.  Even to believers willing to stretch their minds open a bit.

The Garden by Elsie Aidinoff

I don’t remember a controversy when The Garden by Elsie Aidinoff came out, but I can’t imagine it was without any.  Quite frankly, I am surprised it was published as a teen novel considering the scene in which God encourages Adam to force himself upon Eve and a later sex scene involving the serpent.  It is now out of print.  Perhaps if it had been published as an adult novel, it would have reached an audience that would have appreciated or understood it.  Who could say?

The way things happened and the way they’ll turn out remain subjective and fodder for fiction to flesh out (Apologies for the alliteration. I couldn’t resist.) for those who are willing.

My 15 Minutes

I’ve been blurbed.

I’ve been reviewing for Library Journal for several years now, and, to my knowledge, this is the first time my review has found its way to the back of a book. I have to admit: I’m proud.

I’m particularly glad it was this book. I’m more than happy to put my name/words behind Desmond Morris’ Amazing Baby. It is a fascinating look at infanthood from the eyes of a zoologist. As you might imagine from the author of The Naked Ape, everything relates back to human evolution. This is a great book for science-minded parents. I currently have Morris’ newest book, Child, out from the library, and it looks every bit as beautiful and interesting as Amazing Baby.

Dystopias for everyone!


Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins


Finally got my hands on a copy of Mockingjay.  For those not in the know, Mockingjay is the third in a dystopian trilogy for teens.  I’ve been waiting for this book for ages, but only just now got a copy to read since I was too cheap to pre-order it.

While I waited I read every teen dystopian novel I could find.  Birthmarked by Caragh O’Brien was very engaging, but I didn’t feel like the world completely gelled for me.  Matched by Allison Condie, however, was spot on.  The dystopian world was well drawn and believable.  There is less action than Hunger Games, but I think that many teens (and probably some adults) who were fascinated by the future world Katniss lives in will love Matched.

At the MEMO conference, I attended a session led by three middle and high school librarians about teen fiction.  They recommended Maze Runner and its sequel as Hunger Games readalikes.  I liked that they recommended two adult novels in the science fiction section: Margaret Atwood’s newest and The Unit by Nina Holmquist.  I hope to read both of them.  I also have an ARC of the teen novel Water Wars (pub date Jan 2011) sitting on my desk waiting for me to read.
At breakfast with a group of my friends last weekend, the conversation turned to books.  Dystopian novels, specifically Fahrenheit 451 and 1984, came up as being favorites of several of us at the table.  What is it about these books that fascinate so many people?  Are we looking for similarities to our world?  Or escaping our reality to something we can’t imagine?  I guess it depends on the person and the book.  Either way, it’s a highly readable genre that is perennially popular.

I just happen to have a couple of lists (Dystopias for adults and dystopias for kids) on my wiki because I love giving everyone more titles for their reading lists.  Enjoy! :)

Happy Halloween (only a little late…)

I know it’s a bit late to be posting about Halloween, but I hate to let such a great experience go unblogged. ;)


My little fairy coloring a picture in her costume at a local Halloween event.


My little fairy girl had a fabulous Halloween.  She didn’t remember last year, so it was new all over again, which made it all the more exciting.  As usual we started with books from the library.  We read J is for Jack o’Lantern.  This book is part of the alphabet series from Sleeping Bear Press, which I like because they work well on multiple levels.  I usually just read the verse aloud, but the sidebar text is there for me to explain if necessary.  We also read Celebrate Halloween.  Another series I really like.  It is written for primary grades, but it is easily simplified for my preschooler.  The photographs were particularly interesting to my little one.


Alice the Fairy by David Shannon


Since she chose to be a fairy this year, I also thought it would be fun to read about fairies.  Mostly I just wanted to get beyond Tinker Bell.  I wanted my girl to see herself as a fairy. So we got Alice the Fairy from the library, in which a girl wearing a fairy costume talks about all the fairy things she can almost do.  Like turning oatmeal into cake with her magic wand (and a lot of sugar).  It was funny, but still mostly over my almost-three-year-old’s head. Somehow, though, my girl got the idea that fairies are heroes because when asked what she was, she would respond, “I’m a fairy, and I’m here to save the day!”
I had great intentions to make her costume this year.  I even had a book from the library that had simple fairy costume instructions that looked like something I could attempt.  But a co-worker of mine suprised me by offering her now-college-age-daughter’s old fairy wings and dance outfit, which made the perfect costume for my girl.  Thanks, Karen! :)

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How I spent my Spring Break (missing my daughter)

Spring Break!

Spring Break is over.  It’s back to regular life.  I’m glad, I must admit.  I didn’t have off work, but I did have off parenting as Ladybug went on vacation to Gram and Grandpa’s house for a full seven days.  It was such a long time to be gone!  For her and us.  Towards the end of the week, she was saying, “I want to go back to MY house” to me on the phone.  She never got upset or cried, but she definitely knew what she wanted.

My absolute favorite visiting-grandparents picture book is probably not a surprise: The Hello, Goodbye Window by Norton Juster and illustrated by Chris Rashka.  How can you not love that combination?  The author of The Phantom Tollbooth with one of the most interesting children’s book illustrators in the biz?  Yes, please.  It’s just so exuberant.  I cannot resist the energy.  I actually have a page from the F&G tacked to the wall of my cubicle at Mackin.  The one where Poppy is yelling in capital letters out the window “HELLO WORLD!  WHAT HAVE YOU GOT FOR ME TODAY?”

I’m such a sucker for that kind of positive energy.  I just love it.

Not to mention, I love grandparents.  Not just for the fact that they willingly take my toddler for a week.  That’s awesome, but I really love stories and grandparents have them.  It doesn’t matter if they are young or old or rich or poor.   They have stories.  I hope when my daughter gets older, she listens to her grandparents’ stories.  I can’t imagine my mom being anything like the grandmother in Mare’s War by Tanita S. Davis, but that’s what I have in my head for grandmothers now.

“My grandmother isn’t at all normal.  She doesn’t read mystery novels, or sing in a church choir, or knit, or sew.”

Mare, or Marey Lee Boylen, is the sort of grandmother who smokes, wears stiletto heels, and drives a sports car.  “Scary,” her granddaughter Octavia says, “Mostly because I never know what she’s going to do next.”  As it turns out, Mare is more than the idea that Octavia had of her,  and she takes her granddaughter more than just on a cross-country road trip.  I must admit that I was as caught up in Mare’s story as her granddaughers were, and I added Mare’s War to my list of fiction featuring extended family with my personal recommendation.

It sure what nice to have a break, but I’m glad that my little is back home at MY house.