Thursday, January 27, 2011

1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 12............

Fibonacci, the man modern mathematicians regard as the greatest Western math mind of the Middle Ages, was called "Blockhead" and "Idiot" throughout his life. me hope. For all his work, Leonardo Fibonacci is best known for the number pattern in his famous rabbit problem, a pattern well call the Fibonacci sequence. The same sequence that we know now describes how living things prosper, such as flowers and mollusks. The numbers even pop up in works of human imagination--buildings, music, art, and poetry.
Leonardo may have not had the most common sense in the world, but he shared a curiousity about the earth and its wonders which many children will connect with. His ability to think for himself (and put aside the thoughts and opinions of others), to think outside the box, and to build his daydreams into a numerical reality radiate warmth, truth, and beauty.
This book captures those feelings perfectly.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Dave the Potter: Arist, Slave, Poet......

Dave, the Potter, is an artist, poet and slave who inscribes his pottery with unique phrases such as
"another trick is worst than this +
Dearest miss: spare me a Kiss+"
Dave leaves observations on life, witty euphemisms, and lines of poetry on the clay pots he sculpts reminiscent of Japanese haiku. Unfortunately, we often have the notion that slaves during the American Civil War couldn't read, much less write, and Dave challenges that notion certainly with his talented use of the English tongue and script.
The watercolor images in the book depict Dave engaged in the step-by-step process of creating pottery, from preparing the clay for the wheel, to applying the ash glaze. Finally, Dave hand writes a poetic verse on the outside of the jar, adding the date and signature. The watercolor images represent "the spirit of Dave" says illustrator Bryan Collier, as there are no actual images of Dave the Potter in existence. "In many ways Dave's artistry may have served as his own glimpse of freedom, and a way of carving out a life under the brutal and dehumanizing conditions of slavery. Dave's noble jars and verses blaze through the ages and speak profoundly of dignity to our generation and beyond," adds Collier. Couldn't have said it better myself. Complete with a bibliography and a website this book reminds me why I love children's picture books so much. Without saying a lot, they say it all.

Perfect for ages 5-9 and the prose style in which its written may appeal to "reluctant readers" as well.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Ms. Janis Joplin, Please Rise.

YALSA just gave this book the "excellence in non-fiction" for teens award and named it the best non-fiction book for young adults in 2011. I was pleasantly surprised to read Ann Angels rendition of the "blues mama" of the 1960's, as it didn't shy away from the difficult dimensions that comprised much of Joplin's life; including her struggles with drugs, sexuality, and personal identity. The book begins with Joplin's childhood and early upbringing in Port Arthur, Texas and follows her throughout her adolescence--a period in time in which she yearned for freedom from the confines of small town living and hungered for musical stardom.
We witness as she obtains the fame that ultimately begins to destroy her and silently bite our nails as she descends into a lifestyle of fast living, drugs, and madness. All the while, we can't help but admire and cheer for the young woman who becomes the raspy voice of the 1960's, spurred on by her idols such as Ma Rainey and Bessie Smith, to become the highest paid female artist of the decade.
This biography is ultimately a tale of Joplin's taste for life, music, and high stakes, while integrating the infamous poisons she allows into her life that ultimately lead to her tragic death at the Landmark Hotel in 1970. Amy Angel does an excellent job of focusing on Joplin's life rather than her untimely death, which is further enhanced by the multitude of beautiful photos included in the book.
Because of some mature themes, I would recommend this to older teens who can handle photos of nudity (there's at least one), drug elements, and issues of sexuality. Teens and adults who are interested in the 60's, hippie culture, the music scene, or are just HUGE Joplin fans will devour this one in an hour or less.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

I Am Number 4!

I've been following this controversial movie/book for some time now, and wanted to pass on the latest information. This blog comes via PW Children's Bookshelf~

Has a book ever become a movie so quickly? Published by HarperCollins last August, just five months ago, I Am Number Four by Pittacus Lore arrives in theaters next month. Of course, the YA science fiction novel, first in the Lorien Legacies series, is not really by Pittacus Lore, who is one of the Loric elders mentioned in the book. Rather, I Am Number Four was pseudonymously co-written by adult author James Frey and Jobie Hughes, a graduate of Columbia University’s creative writing program. The extremely quick path from page to screen makes some sense, since film rights to the project were sold before the book was.

Read More Here:

Brad Meltzer on Witches...

I came across a blog on best non-fiction for middle schoolers and stumbled across Brad Meltzer's book on witches and the history of their persecution. I read the book last night and found it to be a fast read, very informative, and packed with enough historical information to make it extremely readable--even for adults. The book begins with the history of witchcraft and the persecution of witches in Europe and ends with a modern take on witchcraft and recent historical ramifications (the author makes references to the Holocaust and McCarthy-ism--which may be controversial for some). All together however, I would recommend it for ages 9-12 (as suggested), who have an interest in the topic, or young adults/adults who like a broad (yet accurate) overview.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Twitter Wit!

Ever wish your Twitter feeds or your Facebook status's were a bit... well....more original? "Twitter Wit" is a book I found recently that will not only give you some great ideas to amp up your online personality--it will also keep you entertained and laughing as well.

Some examples:

"I just realized all my friends were married. I freak out if I keep Netflix for more than a week." ~dascola

"I think the proof there is intelligent life on other planets is the fact they've obviously chosen not to contact us." ~willdurst

"When I put sea salt on fish, I wonder if they may already know each other." ~ philly girl

Edited my Mike Douglas, this collection is a unique way to add some sparkle to your tweets. "Today I'm 31. That's like 80 in Facebook years." Classic.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

What's Hot?? Fever Crumb.....

Via The Guardian, Saturday 27 June 2009

Fever Crumb
by Philip Reeve

Future litter is one of the great themes of Philip Reeve's brilliant Mortal Engines series. When I first read these books, I felt as if the pages themselves were charged with electricity. They are set in a remote future in which London has become a huge vehicle - a traction city - roaming around the "darkling plain", swallowing up and asset-stripping smaller settlements in accordance with the laws of "municipal darwinism". It's a heady mixture of the strange and the familiar - Brighton is a slave-trade hub, floating on a raft in the middle of the Atlantic. As an image of the future, it's both fantastical and convincing - a kind of steampunk Planet of Slums.

Fever Crumb is a prequel to the series. Here London is still stuck to the ground, though it is already being menaced by a coalition of wandering, northern tribes called the Movement. Fever Crumb herself is a foundling who has been brought up in the rarified and ultra-rational atmosphere of the Order of Engineers, who live and work inside the head of a colossal ruined statue - an image that mashes "Ozymandias" with Planet of the Apes. When she is sent out to work on an archaeological dig, her composure and reason are tested, first by the madness of the city itself, and next by the emotional wounds she opens as she uncovers the mystery of her own parentage.

Reeve's vision of a society that can no longer afford technology but which is still strewn with the non-degradable detritus of our "civilisation" could not be more timely. Sometimes this detritus is good for a laugh (there's a clever joke about Space Hoppers), and sometimes it's chilling, as when the true nature of "Medusa" is revealed in the earlier books. I occasionally felt uncomfortable in Fever Crumb because of the way these heavyweight issues sit alongside some fairly weedy puns - there's a Krishna-ish cult called Hari Potter, for instance - but I suppose that captures the indifference of time, which will happily reduce the manuscripts of Euripides to dust while inexplicably preserving shopping lists. Bizarrely, Fever Crumb's London bristles with Bowie references. There's a pub called the Mott and Hoople, and the ferocious Skinners' warcry is adapted from Diamond Dogs.

That album in its turn was a response to George Orwell's 1984. Reading Fever Crumb made me nostalgic for the days when books and music talked to each other a bit more. Lord of the Rings, for instance, was surprisingly influential in rock music (T Rex, Led Zeppelin, and so on), board games (Dungeons and Dragons), the hippy press (Gandalf's Garden) and computer games. That doesn't really happen nowadays, when successful books are filmed - and therefore trussed up in copyright law - much more quickly. Even though they are so cinematic, there don't seem to be any immediate plans to film Mortal Engines. Good. It'll be interesting to see what happens to these astonishing, important images if they're allowed to float around in the culture for a while, like pop songs.

Fever Crumb is a terrific read, a sci-fi Dickens, full of orphans, villains, chases and mysteries. There's even a balloon-chase climax. I worry that if you read it before reading the others, you'll miss out on the electric shock I had when I was plunged straight into that jungle of predator cities. Like The Magician's Nephew, or the story of how your parents met, it's a beginning better told at the end.