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: Pop! The Invention of Bubble Gum

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Pop! The Invention of Bubble Gum 

Written and Illustrated by Meghan McCarthy 
Published April 5, 2011 by Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books 
Genre/Topics: Nonfiction, Invention, Biography, Food
Ages: 6+, 40 pages 

Pop! The Invention of Bubble Gum is the interesting story about how Dubble Bubble chewing gum was invented. It was made in small candy factory in Philadelphia in the 1920s by a man named Walter Diemer.  Walter was an accountant, but became curious about a laboratory next to his office. The company was trying to make a new kind of chewing gum. Walter experimented with different mixtures until finally bubbles formed. He added some flavor and began to chew it. Walter blew large bubbles from the mixture. However, the next day the mixture was as hard as a rock and wouldn’t blow a bubble. So, Walter continued to find the correct ingredients and finally had what he wanted. He added pink coloring, since that was the only color available. Batches were sent to  local stores and Walter Diemer gave gum blowing lessons. He never got rich from his invention, but he didn’t care because he enjoyed making people happy as they blew bubble gum. The book provides additional information about Walter Diemer, gum facts, and the history of gum.

Fun Gum Facts: 

  • If you swallow your gum, it won’t stay in your stomach for seven years.
  • Dubble Bubble was included in ration kits for American soldiers serving in World War II.
  • The largest bubble recorded is set by Susan Montgomery Williams for twenty-three inches in diameter.
  • During World War II, some kids kept their Dubble Bubble “alive” in glasses of water at night. Some even managed to continue chewing one piece for as long as a month!
  • Chewing sugarless gum can prevent tooth decay.
  • Chewing gum on an airplane will prevent your ears from popping.

Book Review: Polar the Titanic Bear

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Polar: The Titanic Bear

Written by Daisy Corning Stone Spedden 
Introduction by  Leighton H. Coleman III
Illustrated by Laurie McGaw 
Published September 1, 1994 by Madison Books
Ages: 7+, 64 pages 
Genre/Topics: Nonfiction, Titanic, Scrapbook, Photos

Polar: The Titanic Bear is a fascinating true story told from the bear’s perspective. The story was written by the boy’s mother, Daisy Corning Stone Spedden. The story along with family photographs was  discovered in the attic by Leighton H. Coleman III who is a distant cousin to Daisy. She presented the story to her son, Douglas or “Master” as he’s called in the story, on Christmas in 1913. The bear was manufactured in Germany and shipped to F.A.O. Schwartz in New York City.  The boy quickly fell in love with the bear and named him “Polar”. The Spedden family was very wealthy and traveled around the world. Master took Polar everywhere with him. A few places they traveled to were Paris, Panama, Bermuda, and Northern Africa. Master kept Polar near when he was sick with the measles. He even included Polar during tea parties with friends. Finally, they were going to return to America on the Titanic. Master held Polar close in the lifeboat. As everyone was being rescued out of small lifeboats and onto the Carpathia, Polar was almost forgotten until sailors noticed the bear. The entire family safely made it across the Atlantic Ocean.

I enjoyed Polar: The Titanic Bear as it provided a snapshot into the privileged Edwardian-American society. The book is a little long for a read aloud, but it includes many family photographs, postcards, and other mementoes. I think adults will also enjoy this unique book. Sadly, Douglas died only three years after surviving the Titanic disaster. He was only nine years old in one of the first recorded car accidents in the state of Maine. Nobody is certain what happened to Polar the bear. The Speddens continued to travel, but had no more children. The Titanic adventure doesn’t begin until about the middle of the book.

Douglas with his parents, Polar is at his feet.
Douglas and his mother on the beach in Bermuda.
Douglas and his father in the hotel garden.

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Book Review: Pig on the Titanic

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Pig on the Titanic: A True Story 

Written by Gary Crew
Illustrated by Bruce Whatley 
Published March 1, 2005 by Harper Collins Publishers
Genre/Topics: Nonfiction, Titanic 
Ages: 7+, 32 pages 


This is a cute book from the perspective of a musical box-shaped like a pig named Maxixe. Maxixe’s owner was Miss Edith Rosenbaum who was a fashion buyer abroad the Titanic. Her mother bought the musical box as a good luck charm and to brighten her mood with music. The pig played the maxixe which was a popular dance during that time period. Miss Edith took Maxixe everywhere on the Titanic. When the Titanic hit the iceberg she held the pig close. She wasn’t going to get into a lifeboat until a sailor mistook her pig in a bundle for a baby and threw it into a lifeboat. Miss Edith jumped into the lifeboat. Maxixe helped brighten the children’s spirit in the lifeboat as they wound up the tail and listened to music.









Edith and her pig, Maxixe.