Book Review: Eighty Days by Matthew Goodman

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eight daysEighty Days: Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland’s History-Making Race Around the World

Written by Matthew Goodman 
Published by Ballantine Books on February 19th 2013
Genre/Topics: Nonfiction, Travel, Journalism
480 pages

Three Word Review: Adventure, Exploration, Fun

Imagine that it is 1889, and your only transportation was by steamship or railroad. Two women, Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland, embarked on a travel journey around the world to hopefully beat Jules Verne‘s fiction story Around the World in Eighty Days. Both women were journalists who constantly fought through gender barriers to write stories beyond social  etiquette and fashion. Nellie Bly was a reporter at the World newspaper who left New York City on November 14, 1889, travelling east by steamship. Bly suggested this news story, but it took a year before her editor believed it would promote the magazine and put it into action. Elizabeth Bisland was a reporter at  The Cosmopolitan magazine that wanted to challenge the World and sent her traveling west by train. The race had begun, but Bly didn’t even realize it was a race until she was in Asia, and someone stated she was going to lose. Both women were different and their travels reflect. Bly carried only one luggage that she could easily carry, whereas Bisland took several. Along their journeys they encountered numerous troubles and discoveries while proving that women indeed can travel without an escort. Throughout the book, the reader also learns brief information about transportation and journalism. Will they beat Jules Verne’s story of travelling the world in eighty days and who will win the race?

I thought Eighty Days was a fun adventure about a subject in American history. In today’s society we can easily travel almost anywhere in the world in a few days. I think it would be quite an experience to travel without modern transportation and technology, yes even without cell phones. It would be a thrill to receive the news simply by a postcard or telegram. (I researched and telegrams still exist.)

Book Review: Awesome Photicular Safari Book

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safariSafari: A Photicular Book 
Created by Dan Kainen
Written by Carol Kaufmann 
Published by Workman Publishing Company on September 25, 2012
Genre/Topics: Nonfiction, Safari, Photicular
Ages: Everyone!!!

Have you ever wished your book pages could come to life or be able to walk into the book? Safari almost feels as though you are visiting the safari and learning about different animals. This book is so awesome that you may not want to share it with others. Safari is a photicular or lenticular book where the image pages move when turned. Basically, image frames are sliced into strips to create one image that is slightly blurry. However, when the page turns it comes alive into a film-like motion. There is a brief introduction about the safari then you see eight African animals come alive. The book is also unique because when you turn each page you read it length-wise, so the entire top page provides information and the bottom page features the animal’s movement. You experience a gorilla eating, an elephant flapping its ears, a cheetah running, and more African animals. Just because this book contains moving pictures does NOT mean it can only be enjoyed by children. In fact, Safari was shelved in the nonfiction section at my library. Since the pages and images are complex I would watch young children to ensure they handle the book carefully. Safari is truly an awesome and unique book that you’ll keep turning the pages! 

Book Review: The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson

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devil in the white cityThe Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America

Written by Erik Larson 
Read by Scott Brick
Published  October 17, 2002 by Vintage 
Audio Format: Published October 17, 2002 by Random House Audio 
Genre/Subject: Nonfiction, History, Crime, Chicago’s World Fair
464 pages, 15 hours

Three Word Review: Creepy, Intriguing, Informative

I’ll start by providing a warning that The Devil in the White City is not a children’s book. Erik Larson writes basically two ‘books’ into one book. Larson states right from the beginning that the book is not fiction and any quotations are from research sources. The magic is that it’s a nonfiction history book that reads like fiction. The first ‘book’ is about the formation of the World’s Columbian Exposition or better known as the Chicago’s World Fair. The second ‘book’ is about a serial killer’s actions during the same time as the fair in Chicago. The focus switches between two men: Daniel Hudson Burnham an architect whose ideas helped create the fair and Henry H. Holmes a young doctor and murderer. The Chicago’s World Fair at first didn’t seem possible with the grand ideas and buildings that needed to be built. Individuals knew it had to be better than Paris’ recent exposition and a design grander than the Eiffel Tower. The Chicago’s World Fair brought new items and ideas that fascinated individuals. One trip into the fair wasn’t enough to experience it all. At the same time, Holmes charms individuals, mainly young women, to do whatever he pleases.

This isn’t a book that I would normally pick up, instead it was read for my book club. Personally, I enjoyed learning more about the Chicago’s World Fair and the history during this time period than the murders planned by Holmes. Don’t let the murders scare you away, because it really never goes into details. Instead, the book examines his relationships and how he charmed anyone. If you enjoy history, architecture,  and a brief look into the mind of a serial killer than you may enjoy this unique nonfiction book.

Book Review: Pizza

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Pizza: How to Make and Bake More than 50 Delicious Homemade Pizzas

Written by Carla Bardi 
Published by Readers Digest on May 12, 2011 
Genre/Topics: Nonfiction, Cookbook, Pizza 
Ages: This is not exactly a ‘children’s’ recipe book, but it’s easy to understand and children can help with adult supervision. 
128 pages 


I don’t often examine the new nonfiction books in my library, but this book caught my eye. Why? Well, it was exactly shaped (round) like a pizza so it really stood out. The book provides a brief history of pizza making and how it became so popular. It gives recipes for basic, whole wheat, and gluten-free dough. I made the basic dough. I really enjoyed this book, because at each step there were photos. After you’ve made your dough the next step is to decide which pizza to make. I made a margherita pizza with simple mozzarella and fresh basil. Each pizza is presented in two pages: one page directions and the other page an entire photo of the completed pizza. Mine didn’t exactly look like the photo, but it was still tasty.




Book Review: My Librarian is a Camel

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My Librarian is a Camel: How Books Are Brought to Children Around the World 

Written by Margriet Ruurs
Published August 1, 2005 by Boyds Mills Press
Genre/Topics: Nonfiction, World Issues, Library 
Ages: 8+, 32 pages 

Margriet Ruurs wondered how books were brought to children around the world, so she researched different mobile libraries throughout the world. She contacted librarians who shared their information, stories, and pictures about various mobile libraries. Ruurs explores how books reach readers in Australia, Azerbaijan, Canada, England, Finland, Indonesia, Kenya, Mongolia, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Thailand, and Zimbabwe. The methods varied greatly from a bookmobile in Australia to a wheelbarrow at the beach in England to book boat in Finland to a library camel in Kenya to even an elephant library in Thailand! My Librarian is a Camel: How Books Are Brought to Children Around the World  presents each country in alphabetical order on two pages. Each country includes detailed information about the book program, photographs, map, and the country’s flag.

Celebrate National Library Week!

April 8-14, 2012

Book Review: Thunder Dog

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Thunder Dog: A Blind Man, His Guide Dog, and the Triumph of Trust at Ground Zero

by Michael Hingson and Susy Flory

Nonfiction, 256 pages

Thunder Dog is a book about a blind man’s relationship with his guide dog, Roselle, and how they escaped together from the Twin Towers. Michael Hingson was born blind and throughout the entire book you learn how this never stopped him , but pushed him forward. Forward is also the first command that a guide dog learns. Hingson calmly travels down the hundreds of stairs with his faithful dog at all times. Thunder Dog provides descriptions from events on September 11th, but I wouldn’t say it’s the only focus. The book goes back and forth from Hingson growing up in a sighted world to the long journey down the stairs. He discusses the relationship with his guide dogs, discrimination he encountered, resources that helped him, and his constant determination. If you’re searching for a book that’s only focused on 9/11 with detailed descriptions then this is the wrong book. (Previous review: 102 Minutes is a better choice.) However, if you’re looking for a book with heart that focuses on one individual during a moment of hope then this is your book.

Here are some Guide Dog Wisdom from the book:

What I learned from Roselle on 9/11

1. There’s a time to work and a time to play. Know the difference. When the harness goes on, it’s time to work. Work hard; others are depending on you.
2. Focus in and use all of your senses. Learn to tell the difference between a harmless thunderstorm and a true emergency. Don’t let your sight get in the way of your vision.
3. Sometimes the way is hard, but if you work together, someone will pass along a water bottle just when you need it.
4. Always, but always, kiss firefighters.
5. Ignore distractions. There’s more to life than playing fetch or chasing tennis balls.
6. Listen carefully to those who are wiser and more experienced than you. They’ll help you find the way.
7. Don’t stop until work is over. Sometimes being a hero is just doing your job.
8. The dust cloud won’t last forever. Keep going and look for the way out. It will come.
9. Shake off the dust and move on. Remember the first guide dog command? “Forward.”
10. When work is over, play hard with your friends.

Michael Hingson (Thunder Dog, page 173)

Book Review: 102 Minutes to Survive the Twin Towers

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102 Minutes: The Untold Story of the Fight to Survive Inside the Twin Towers

by Jim Dwyer and Kevin Flynn

384 pages

I shared 9/11 recommendations for children’s book, so I’ll include a nonfiction book that I finished. 102 Minutes was the first book I read about the events on September 11th. I think this book did a great job providing emotion while also giving facts and details. The book constantly referred to the horrific circumstances similar to those on the Titanic, since it wasn’t just the iceberg that killed the people. The authors discussed in detail about building codes that changed when building the Twin Towers and the inside struggles the individuals encountered, such as stairways blocked, doors locked, and elevators not working. The authors used first hand information from interviews, phone calls, emails, radio communication, and emergency contacts. Individuals had only 102 minutes from the time the first tower was hit to when both towers collapsed. Exact times were given throughout the book. There also were diagrams of the Twin Towers showing exactly where each plane hit, stairways blocked, and exit paths. The book provided emotion, such as details about individuals who risked their life to help others and people working together to survive. I highly recommend this book for a deeply moving experience about the events on September 11th. I finished the book in two days.

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind

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The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Creating Currents of electricity and hope

by William Kamkwamba and Brian Mealer

Non-fiction, 288 pages

I really enjoyed this book and thought it was inspirational. The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind was the selected book during the Tacoma Reads Together Program which started briefly after 9/11. The purpose was to bring the community together through events that hopefully lead into discussion. Other cities also began similar programs. I was lucky enough to attend a book talk with the author.

William Kamkwamba grew up in a small village in the struggling country of Malawi. Malawi is an African country known for its poverty, high prevalence of HIV/AIDS, food shortage, low life expectancy, and based with an agriculture economy. The book describes a boy who wanted to improve his family and village. Kamkwamba was forced to drop out of school, since his parents couldn’t pay the tuition. However, this didn’t stop him from learning and he constantly visited the library. There was a major food crisis and the book went into detail about death and daily struggles that people went through to get food. Kamkwamba was only 14 when he stumbled upon a book about electricity from wind power. Malawi’s strong wind charged Kamkwamba to design a windmill to harness the wind to provide electricity. Nobody understood what he was doing and thought he was going crazy, but nothing stopped him. He finally designed his windmill with various scrap metal, including a bicycle, and was able to light a bulb and power a radio. Journalist noticed the success and Kamkwamba gained positive recognition and traveled to the United States to share his story. He continues building windmills to help his village with water for irrigation and electricity. I highly recommend this book for everyone.

There are so many times when individuals may want to give up or become discouraged from struggles. Kamkwamba’s story was so inspirational and moving even when others continually told him that he was wasting his time. They told him he was wasting his time, because others didn’t understand his vision.  His simple windmill vision improved his village. Keep your vision alive and strive through life’s challenges.

William Kamkwamba’s message: If you want to do it, all you have to do is try.