Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Review: When We Were Alone

When We Were Alone When We Were Alone by David Alexander Robertson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a sweet, comforting look at a rather sad and uncomfortable topic: the sending of children away from their native communities to boarding schools that denied their culture.

The only criticism I have, if it can be said to be such, is that, since I have been reading about this general topic for a while now, it wasn't immediately clear to me that the book was about Cree native Americans/Canadians. It left me wishing there had been a little more information. But, I am an adult, and this may well be all that children can absorb.

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Sunday, March 18, 2018

Review: The Girl Who Drew Butterflies: How Maria Merian's Art Changed Science

The Girl Who Drew Butterflies: How Maria Merian's Art Changed Science The Girl Who Drew Butterflies: How Maria Merian's Art Changed Science by Joyce Sidman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I have a bit of an issue with the title. Maria Merian was not just a "girl who drew butterflies". She was an artist who drew and studied insects, animals, and the plants they lived with and on. This is a bit like describing a pioneering herpetologist as "a boy who watched frogs". It trivializes her contributions and makes the drawing and the butterflies more central and exclusive to her work than they were. Yes, she was a gifted artist and yes, she did paint butterflies, but she also drew, painted, and STUDIED butterflies and moths and other insects, as well as plants and animals. And her contributions to the science which eventually became entomology were not trivial. As someone who, at one point was a trained scientist, I am also a bit puzzled (non-plussed) with the distinction between amateur biology observers and "real scientists". True, she didn't have formal training, but in many ways, her observations and experiments were exactly what "real" scientists must do and actually DO do.

Complaints aside, this is an interesting book. Once again, I marvel at the determination and dedication that many women scientists had, even though they were held back at every turn. I am jealous of that dedication and that effort in some ways. I had it too easy and I didn't appreciate all of the education I actually got. I marvel at the ability of people to carry on, in spite of everything.

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Review: I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter

I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L. Sánchez
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is actually a DNF for me, since I had to return it to the library. I liked the voice of the protagonist at first, but she gradually became a bit too self-absorbed for me. And the plot was somewhat predictable. I scanned the rest of the book (which is a bad habit of mine) and so I know pretty much what the outcome was. I don't think I will check it out again to really finish it.

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Review: Because I Said So! : The Truth Behind the Myths, Tales, and Warnings Every Generation Passes Down to Its Kids

Because I Said So! : The Truth Behind the Myths, Tales, and Warnings Every Generation Passes Down to Its Kids Because I Said So! : The Truth Behind the Myths, Tales, and Warnings Every Generation Passes Down to Its Kids by Ken Jennings
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I was surprised at how many of these myths, tales, and warnings there were and how many I recognized. I didn't read the whole book thoroughly, but I sampled ones throughout the book that I found interesting. It was a good book to read for short times, since the vignettes are not long.

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Sunday, March 11, 2018

Review: Tisha: The Wonderful True Love Story of a Young Teacher in the Alaskan Wilderness

Tisha: The Wonderful True Love Story of a Young Teacher in the Alaskan Wilderness Tisha: The Wonderful True Love Story of a Young Teacher in the Alaskan Wilderness by Robert Specht
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Somehow, I think if I were a REAL Alaskan, this type of book would be in my blood. It deals with teaching, kids, and the challenges of the Alaskan bush, with a sympathetic heroine and interesting points of view. It highlights the stubborn persistence of prejudice and class distinctions. I should love it. And I did read the whole thing and enjoy it. But I am not a REAL Alaskan and it isn't in my blood. I wonder if a book about the Mid-West would be more Me.

Nevertheless, this is a huge favorite for many Alaskans. It is a good story and heartwarming.

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Friday, March 9, 2018

Review: Escape from Aleppo

Escape from Aleppo Escape from Aleppo by N.H. Senzai
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

As many times as I have read both fiction and non-fiction about the Middle East, I never manage to remember who at least one and usually most of the groups are. Some, I know nothing about (e.g., Druze), some I know a little about (Hezbollah), some I know a lot about (Sunni, Shia, Kurd). But usually, it just leaves me confused and discouraged. This book is no exception - too many groups fighting each other; too much danger and privation. The story was interesting enough to pull me in, though, and I did get a sense of how difficult and scary the situation must be, especially for children. I just wish there were some way out of the conflicts. I wish my own country's involvement had been for mercy and humanitarian intervention. I wish it weren't SO HARD to find a way to solve the problems in the Middle East.

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Monday, March 5, 2018

Review: Piecing Me Together

Piecing Me Together Piecing Me Together by Renée Watson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In my not so humble opinion, this book is spot on with interpersonal relationships, especially with those having to do with class and racial issues. It is thorough and nuanced. There were a couple of times when it almost veered into being a bit too preachy or didactic, but for the most part, it avoided those particular pitfalls. I enjoyed it.

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