Life's hard.

It's even harder when you're stupid.

John Wayne

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle by Betty MacDonald, Hilary Knight (Illustrator) ★★★☆☆

Mrs. Piggle Wiggle

A fun way to have teaching moments! 
Fiction – Juvenile - Classics
Age Range: 8 and up Grade Level: 3 - 7
119 pages
Publication Date:  1947
Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle #1

Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle loves children and they love her.  From her upside house to her genius for costumes to the possible pirate treasure in her backyard Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle is a child’s delight.  She is also a great help to parents, helping them solve problems and curing childhood behavioral ailments.

Ms. MacDonald has a real understanding of children and has written a manuscript that can withstand the cultural changes more than half a century later.  She starts the story off speaking directly to the in a vocal story telling style, making the story feel very personable and intimate.  The writing is relaxed and easygoing and fun.  A good chapter book to read out loud or have the kids read on their own.    Each chapter presents great teaching moments to talk over while avoiding the pitfalls of preaching and nagging.  Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle, is imaginative and whimsical, always ready to play, but still very responsible.  A lot of the names are very silly, but the main issues like, eating slowly and constant fighting among siblings happen all of the time.  The subjects in this book can create a good chance for discussion and a way to spend time with your child.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Book Review Queue

Dear Fellow Readers,

After taking two weeks to get through two chapters of The Professor and the Madman by Simon Winchester without finding anything to compel me to continue I have decided to abandon this book and try to find other books on this fascinating subject by different authors.


Friday, September 6, 2013

Longitude: The True Story of a Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of his Time by Dava Sobel ★★★☆☆

I heart microhistories!

 Non Fiction – Microhistory – Chronometer
Publication Date:  1995
Pages:  192
Literary Awards:  Royal Society Prize Nominee for General Prize (1997)

Longitude: The True Story of a Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of his Time
In a time when the seas represented the chance for growth, but the perils and very real possibility of being lost at a sea hampered efforts, John Harrison created the chronometer.  This clock was his answer to the longitude problem.  While others wanted to depend on the night skies John Harrison chose to depend on technology.  Entering his idea into the English contest with unheard of winnings, Harrison and his son spent decades fighting for what they believed was their due and to prove the worth of their machine.

First, I just want to say, I adore microhistories.  They are delightful little nuggets of stories that usually hold more importance in the grand scheme of things than we could have imagined.  I also appreciate how they usually lead me to other semi related topics.  My gushing over, I can now move onto the actual review

I personally have never really considered before how half hazard ship navigation was.  Most of my history lessons involved how the ships found places, not how they were basically just guesstimating their proximity to the desired destination, with very real and horrible consequences.  Ms. Sobel really laid out the issue in such a way for me, as a modern reader, to understand the dangers each voyage faced.  Once explained it was incredibly easy to appreciate how this clock could change things and why it was so incredibly important.

Ms. Sobel’s popular account of this monumental time in history is more suited to the everyday reader than an academic.  Her writing style leaned toward the elegant and the flow of the interesting and easy to follow narrative was engaging (let’s be honest, even a history lover like myself knows that it takes talent to keep the information from going dry).  Her story telling was well-constructed and had some really great anecdotes woven seamlessly in (the whole bit about how sauerkraut warded off scurvy was really fascinating).  Her assessment of the issues appears to be fair and free of hero worship.   She gives off the impression of some well able apt to understand the subject (okay, so I know that sounds kind like a “well duh” statement, but trust me, not all writer’s ambition is well matched to their ability).  It is short enough to be a one sit read, but in the fight for my attention it did tend to lose out, so it took me a few days.  It would have been nice to have a directory of characters at the back to help keep track of the players.  And I would have really liked to see a schematic and picture with working explanation of the chronometer (though I did find out after I finished writing the review that the 10th anniversary addition apparently addresses this issue).  Overall I am impressed with Ms. Sobel and in pursuit of her other books.

ISBN  0802714625 (ISBN13: 9780802714626)