Reading Report from Northern, Central Texas: April 2017

This final day of April has been lovely here in my part of central Texas!  It started out gloomy and cool and has ended sunny and mild.  From my new blogging spot, I can see our backyard bathed in the late evening sunshine.  It is a lovely evening.

Can you believe that a full quarter of 2017 has sped by?  I can’t imagine where the time has gone.  I would have liked to have spent more time reading.

Jim

This book’s title looks interesting.  I need to get a copy for myself.  I will get him to write a guest post, when he finishes it.

  • Krauss, Lawrence M. The Greatest Story Ever Told So Far: Why Are We Here? New York: Simon & Schuster, 2017.

Sarah

Sarah had a little extra time for reading this month.  Here is a partial list for her and some of the comments she posted on Facebook about these books.

  • Wiles, Deborah. Countdown. New York: Scholastic, 2010.

So, my car is in the shop this week so no dance for me so I’ve been doing some extra reading. I started with this book, Countdown, and what a great read! It’s a historical fiction documentary type book that centers around the life of an 11-year old girl during the Cuban missile crisis.

“There are always scary things happening in the world. There are always wonderful things happening. And it’s up to you to decide how you’re going to approach the world… how you’re going to live in it, and what you’re going to do.”

  • Lorenzi, Natalie Dias. Flying the Dragon. Watertown, MA: Charlesbridge, 2012

Yesterday’s book, Flying the Dragon, was a fun short read. The story focuses on two children Skye Tsuki and Hiroshi Tsuki.

Skye lives near Washington DC. Her mother is an American and her father is Japanese. She has never really explored or taken an interest in her Japanese heritage until she is forced to when her cousin Hiroshi’s family and her Grandfather move from Japan into the neighborhood.

Hiroshi loves living in Japan, he especially loves spending time with his grandfather who is a master kite maker and the rokkaku champion of their village. Hiroshi must now move to America with is family and encounters many challenges at school and at home.

  • Dauvillier, Loïc. Illustrated by Marc Lizano and Greg Salsedo. Hidden: A Child’s Story of the Holocaust. New York: First Second, 2012.

Hidden is a short book about a little girl who wakes up one night to find that her grandmother is recovering from a nightmare. When the little girl inquires about her grandmother’s dream she is told the story of her grandmother growing up as a little Jewish girl in France during WW2.

Alexis

As always, our most prolific reader.  Here are some of the books she read this month.

  • Griffith, Clay and Susan Griffith. The Shadow Revolution. New York: Del Rey, 2015.
  • Martin, Nancy. Dead Girls Don’t Wear Diamonds. New York: Signet, 2003.
  • Haines, Carolyn. Greedy Bones. New York: Minotaur, 2010.
  • Alt, Madelyn. No Rest for the Wiccan. New York: Berkley, 2008
  • Alt, Madelyn. Where There’s a Witch. New York: Berkley, 2009
  • Alt, Madelyn. A Witch in Time. New York: Berkley, 2011
  • Page, Katherine Hall. The Body in the Vestibule. New York: Avon, 1997.
  • Haydon, Elizabeth. Rhapsody. New York: Tor, 1999

Robin

This month I finally finished the first book of The New Sun by Gene Wolfe.  Considered a classic of science fiction, I am glad to have persevered through it.  At one point in my life, I might have liked this book, but I didn’t enjoy this as much as I thought.  It puts me in mind of  Mervyn Peake’s Titus Groan, also considered a classic, and I feel the same way about both books.  They are dark and dystopian.

  • Wiles, Deborah. New York: Scholastic, 2010.
  • MacAvoy, R.A. The Book of Kells. New York: Open Road, 1985.
  • Chesterton, G.K. The Complete Father Brown Stories. Herefordshire, England: Wordsworth Classics, 1972.
  • Cline, Ernest. New York: Broadway, 2015
  • Wolfe, Gene. Book of the New Sun (The Shadow of the Torturer and The Claw of the Conciliator). London: Orion, 1980, 1981.

Ten Black Dots

Cover ofCrews, Donald. Ten Black Dots. New York: Scholastic, Inc., 1968 & 1986.

Reading a variety of books to a child is important.  Counting books are important for young children, because they introduce the language of numbers and mathematics.  Also they can be very fun.  This is a terrific counting book.  The pictures are simple, creative, and instructive.

What can you do with 10 black dots?  A book is what Donald Crews could do!  Here is my take on Ten Black Dots.  After reading this book, perhaps you and a young person could draw your own version of this book.

What can you do with one black dot?
Donald made a sun and moon.
I would make a star in June.

What would you do with two black dots?
Donald made keys and the eyes of a fox.
I might draw two round rocks.

Donald used three black dots
To make a snowman’s face.
I would make a tricycle for a race!

For you and me, Donald drew four black seeds!
With four black dots, I’d make tires on a car.
That car would carry me far, far, far.

Five portholes wink from a ship he drew.
Five is a terrific number.  With five black dots, I might draw
The five Black-eyed Susans I recently saw.

Donald drew six marbles, half old, half new.
I like marbles.
I’d draw them too!

Seven stones raked from a garden is what Donald drew.
My garden has too many stones to count.
I would draw screws on a telescope mount.

Donald made eight dots for the wheels of a train.
I might draw four pair of spider eyes,
Gleaming under the star lit skies.

The heads of nine toy soldiers was drawn for us.
What would I draw?
Nine scoops of chocolate ice cream before they thaw.

Ten balloons stuck in a tree, then loosed were illustrated.
Two ladybugs upon a beach,
I’d draw them with 5 dots each.

Make your own pictures and count every dot
Or read this book and find out what Donald thought.

Guest Post: Why Science Fiction as a Genre Is Important

Photo M81
M81 in Ursa Major / Astrophotgraph by James Reimund / San Gabriel Observatory

Back in November, when I wrote about The Paper Bag Princess,  I mentioned a post from Reading Rainbow titled “Raising Science Fiction Readers.” According to that post,

For young kids (and for many adults!) there is something irresistible about the combination of smart ideas, exploring new worlds, and escaping the boredom of everyday life. Science fiction and fantasy books are exciting! But the appeal of these books goes beyond mere excitement. Science fiction and fantasy stories make us feel strong and adventurous, and for many kids, these are some of the only worlds where they feel they fit in.

I find I like the out of the world experiences and thought-provoking ideas I have when I read science fiction.  For those reasons and others, I find science fiction to be an important genre.  My husband, Jim has his own ideas about why this genre is important.  He has detailed his ideas in this guest post.

Science fiction isn’t always considered high prose.  At least not in the sense of other types of literature such as poetry, satire, and morality stories.  These types of literature have been around for centuries and people know of their potential value and beauty.  They provide an elegant means of instruction.  Some literature tells instructional tales and provides warnings to people who might behave poorly or need life perspective.  I think of “Gulliver’s Travels” for the former and “Ozymandias” for the latter.  Anyway, literature can be a means of communicating about life and the human condition.

Science fiction is, in my opinion, no less a player on this stage.  In fact, I would argue that because of the fast pace of technological development, it is essential.  We now have capabilities that were unimaginable even 50 years ago.  The accrual of wisdom to use these new capabilities is usually a much slower proposition.  In order to have time to think about new possibilities and how they should be used requires thinking about them ahead of time.  Science fiction provides a means of attempting this.  Even if the technical details are fuzzy, the ramifications of new technologies can be thought about and discussed.  At the very least, a better set of questions can be thought up to help figure out the possible ramifications of new technologies.

Example:  “Brave New World” by Aldous Huxley

This novel predominately explores the effects of society when human reproduction is entirely controlled in such a way as to support the state.  Sex is dissociated from reproduction and reproduction is controlled in factories to provide the “correct” population mix of talents.  Consequences of this society are explored, including the necessity to have a “wild population” of humans in order to maintain a genetic mix so that all of humanity can’t be wiped out by disease because of limited genetic diversity in the “civilized” population.  How is this relevant now?

Today, genetics is very much more advanced than in 1931 when the book was written.  It is now possible to tinker with the genetics of the unborn (determine the sex, fix genetic issues, and clone).  No longer is it a stretch to think that humans could someday be “produced” ex-utero. So, for 85 years (book was actually published in 1932) we have had time to think about such reproductive issues and how power over this process could be used or misused.  Has advantage been taken of this time to examine and think about where our current genetic technology is taking us?  Possibly.  Today there is much ethical discussion around most technologies having to do with human reproduction.  Human cloning is no doubt possible (certainly other mammals have been cloned), yet there are prohibitions on this in most countries.

Other examples can be found for time travel, space exploration, and robots/artificial intelligence to name a few more.  As humanity is able to control ever more powerful forces such as energy and genetics, more and more thought must be applied to the wisdom of usage.  This is why the futuristic thoughts and themes of science fiction are important.

2016: A Year in Review

collage1_2016Happy New Year! I am starting 2017 with a review of books from 2016. Here is the consolidated list (libraryrecap).

I have enjoyed writing this blog. I began writing to explain to my new nephew, why I chose the books he received as a birth gift. My family encouraged me to write a blog.  They seem to think that I know something about children’s books.  They are so lovely and kind!  What I know about children’s books is that I like them.  If I could, I would inspire every child with the love of reading.  I like reading books. I like paring books with ideas, events and activities.

Since they encouraged me to write, I have been writing this blog for my pleasure and practice. Sometimes, but not often, it gets me out of dinner dishes (I can’t do dishes tonight, I have to work on my blog).  If I had stopped with the volumes purchased for my new nephew,  it would have been a very short blog. When I finished his list I segued to the rest of my children’s book collection.  Many of these books are old favorites of mine. It has been a lovely walk down memory lane. As I reread and write about these books, I remember snuggling up with my girls and sharing these stories.  Reading to children is a wonderful activity. It was fun, fun, fun to read and discover these books with my girls. It was fun, fun, fun to remember that time through this blog.

My family has become accustom to keeping a list of their readings for the monthly reading report. I hope that you have enjoyed these reports.  2016 was a very enjoyable reading year!  I hope it is another good year for reading and for all other endeavors.

Happy New Year to everyone! May your year be productive, satisfying and fun! Find some good books to read. Here are some of the books that were read in Haus Reimund in 2016.collage2_2016

Tom Swift and His Rocket Ship and Astrotwins: Project Blastoff

discoveryThis summer I was luck enough to visit the Udvar-Hazy National Air and Space Museum.  It is in a huge hangar at the Dulles Airport.  It has an impressive display of all kinds of airplanes and space vehicles, including the shuttle Discovery.  It was grand and amazing place. We had such a fun time there.  Before we left, I needed a souvenir to remember my visit.  I chose Mark Kelly’s book.

rocketboys2As I was looking for a book for this blog, I remembered this purchasing this book.  In the meantime I was perusing the bookshelf and I found Jim’s stash of Tom Swift, Jr. books.  I decided to read both of them and report out.

  • Appleton II, Victor. Tom Swift and His Rocket Ship. New York: Grosset & Dunlap, 1954.
  • Kelly, Mark. Astrotwins: Project Blastoff. New York: Simon & Schuster for Young Readers, 2015.

Tom Swift and his friend, Bud Barclay are preparing a rocket ship.  Tom and Bud along with a significant staff provided by his family’s company want to win the Rocket Race among Nations. Tom, Jr. is an inventory extraordinaire!  He has invented several things to gain advantage for the upcoming orbital flight around the earth.  He wants to win that race.  With a large lab for their work and an island to assemble the rocket, you might think it would be a shoe-in.  However, Tom has problems.  He has to contend with spies and saboteurs. A shady competitor, Rotzog, also wants to win Rocket Race.  Rotzog is determined to win and he doesn’t care what happens to Tom and Bud.  He thinks the race will help him be master of the world.  How do Tom and Bud escape this nefarious devil?  Do Tom & Bud win the Rocket Race of Nations? Find a copy of this book and find out.

As you can tell by the title, Mark Kelly’s book is about twins.  They are 11-year-old Mark and Scott.  It is summer and although they have chores to do and bikes to ride, they get restless.  The first thing they do is dismantle their Dad’s calculator, which lands them in hot water.  They are sent to visit their Grandpa.  This isn’t really a problem as they love to visit him.  Despite the chores Grandpa assigns and all the activities at his home, they get bored and begin to bicker. Their very smart Grandpa suggested that they practice détente and work on a project together.  One that will keep them out of trouble and from destroying things. The project they decided upon was to build and launch a rocket ship.  With plenty of help old friend, Barry and their new friends, Jenny (Egg), Howard and Lisa. They build a replica of John Glenn’s Friendship 7 capsule.  Was it easy? No!  They actually had to go to the library and study!  Who gets to fly it?  How will they power it?  Where will they launch it?  All the questions and more are answered in this very entertaining book.

Happy Autumnal Equinox

People with binoculars & a telescope looking at the starsGibbons, Gail.  Stargazers.  New York: Scholastic, Inc., 1992.

Today is the first official day of fall.  It is the Autumnal Equinox¹. Here in central Texas, it was a mite cooler this morning (68° F) and not quite so hot this afternoon (93° F).  For us, fall is an astronomical event not a meteorological one.  Eventually the leaves will change and the temperatures will be milder, but that time is still many weeks away.

backyard_fall16
My Backyard. First Day of Fall. September 22, 2016.

From now until the winter solstice, the nights get longer.  With longer nights, we have a more opportunity to stargaze.  I love to look up at the stars.  Tonight when it gets dark, here’s what I might see overhead: Pegasus, Andromeda or Hercules¹.  These are sometimes hard for me to locate.  There are others I can find more easily. They are the Big Dipper, Cygnus, and Cassiopeia.   The three brightest stars in the overhead sky will be Altair, Vega and Deneb. If you are here in the northern hemisphere you can use this map to help you locate these constellations and stars in our autumn night sky: Beckstrom Observatory Sky Map.

So on this autumnal day, I offer you this book about stargazers. In this time when schools are stressing STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math), it is a good resource to have on your bookshelf.  It is packed with information for anyone interested the stars and the night sky.  Gail Gibbons uses bright, visually appealing pictures to present basic information about stars and space in ways we can easily understand.  What are the tools a stargazer can use?  Do you know the difference between a refracting telescope and a reflecting telescope?  Have you ever visited an Observatory or a Planetarium?  With colorful pictures and careful language, she explains these wonders to us.

In this fall season, take advantage of our longer nights . Go out and enjoy the night sky.  Be a stargazer!

¹http://www.treehugger.com/natural-sciences/11-facts-about-autumnal-equinox.html