Friday, 8 March 2019

Book Review--Cormoran Strike series

Image result for cormoran strike series covers

Image result for cormoran strike series covers

I have been aware for quite awhile of J.K. Rowling's pseudonym Robert Galbraith but am late arrived to the party.  It was worth the wait!

The good thing about waiting until several books in a series are out is that you don't have 'sequel despair' the impatience that comes from having to wait until the next book is published.  The difficult thing about Galbraith's Cormoran Strike series is that it is consuming enough that I need to take a break after each one and read something else before I delve back into the intense world inhabited by PI Cormoran Strike and his secretary/partner Robin Ellacot.

I am a huge Harry Potter fan and was not disappointed by Rowling's plot, character development, and pacing.  But you cannot find two more different series in intensity and subject matter.  I am in awe of the creativity and skill it takes to write for such different audiences with different intent.  I do also appreciate the progression of depravity from one book to another. In this aspect, I am reminded of Ransom Riggs' Miss Peregrine series (reviewed here) which took small steps toward horror genre without invoking a terror response. I find that these are excellent examples of series books that do not degenerate in quality as they progress.

As I listened to this book on audio through RBDigital (accessed through my local library--shameless plug that libraries are awesome places to get FREE access to books and more), I must mention the narrator Robert Glenister who did a fabulous job of giving life and depth to each of the characters.  His varied voices, accents, and pacing were amazing and matched the style of writing and penetrating events.

I am thoroughly invested in this series and can't wait for the next to come out--although it will be awhile since Lethal White was just released.  It's always good to have something to look forward to!

Wednesday, 28 March 2018

Where Do You Find Your Information?

Navigating the treacherous waters of the web while surfing the internet has many inherent dangers.  Disregarding phishing schemes, downloadable viruses, spyware, the scary tracking information websites use to trace your preferences and target ads to you; one of the scariest aspects of the internet (formerly known as the World Wide Web) is misinformation.

When I taught both undergraduate research classes and 8th grade English Language Arts, I hit the topic of reliable information very hard.  Even without my mellifluous voice-over teaching to this presentation, I'll bet you can still get the gist of what I was driving at with my middle schoolers. (You can also take a look at a similar post "Fact or Fable")

There's a term called "click bait".  That is when a website uses a grandiose headline to encourage you to click on the link to another article.  Considering I put links to my own previous publishing within posts on my blog, can I really say this is bad?  Yes.  Yes, I can. Because the intent is different.  When an author or website owner sends to you another post or page on their website to read actual content, that's o.k.  But the more scintillating the headline, the more likely it is that people will click over to it... and that's when advertisers step in. And that's where it gets really scary.

Advertising has rooted itself in psychology and it often works by manipulating your emotions, your self-identity, and your worldview. Take a look at this infographic for a quick overview of how marketing targets different areas...

The Sneaky Psychology of Advertising

... scary isn't it?

The American Psychological Association (of the dreaded APA citation fame) published the article "Advertising as Science" in 2002, now available online, which discusses the roots of psychology use in advertising.  It covers the first commercially successful book about the subject but also discusses how psychological principles can be used to target messages successfully.

An even scarier thought, for me as a parent at least, is the often unrestricted access children have to advertisements while they watch shows.  The APA did an entire task force report regarding "Advertising and Children" and the implications are chilling, especially considering that this task force report was developed in 2004 before personal WiFi devices were such a common occurence in youngsters hands. With the advent of cable television and now the internet, an entirely new demographic opened up for companies who previously only had adults as their intended audience.

What can we do?

Well, for starters, we can turn our skepticism up every time we see an ad.  From a click bait "lose weight fast" to the next coolest cleaning invention, stop and think:

1. Is this a real problem they are addressing or are they making one up for the 'solution' they want to sell? 
2. What is this aimed at making me feel?

Secondly, make sure you watch ads or look at them on the computer with your kids and talk about those two questions.  Help them identify if the article is making them feel jealous that they don't have the next best thing.  Or let them know the way it's phrased makes you feel insecure.

You can also do simple research.  Google is a powerful tool when it comes to debunking advertising claims.  Run a search for the 'the item reviews'.  Look for good and bad reviews.  If it's on Amazon, check the stars and read the highest and lowest ratings to see if the claims are true.

The truth of the matter is, we can live without a lot of the things we see advertised and we can change our own habits when it comes to falling for outrageous claims.  Identify the psychological method used and enjoy your healthy dose of skepticism and do your research.

Wednesday, 7 February 2018

New Book Review--Cannibalism

Why does the idea of cannibalism intrigue us? It manifests itself in cinema and television (Zombieland and The Walking Dead), literature (Robinson Crusoe, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies), and even everyday language and jokes ("She's a man-eater";Two cannibals were eating a clown.  One says to the other, "Do you think this tastes funny?")

Bill Schutt addresses this fascination with his book Cannibalism: A Perfectly Natural History. His engaging writing style takes a look at the variety of cannibalistic instances in the animal world and widens to include humans, even if we often consider ourselves above common animal predilections.  Schutt starts the discussion with an overview of some of the simpler organisms in the animal kingdom and their penchant for eating one another. From Daphnia (a type of water flea), to fish and salamanders to polar bears and other mammals, he lays out observations of the phenomena and what researchers report are the probable indicators for such behavior.

Image result for cannibalism a perfectly natural historyAfter somewhat 'normalizing' the behavior in the animal kingdom, Schutt shifts focus to people. The breadth of information is amazing and his research is well-rounded and he discusses a topic that can engender harsh judgments from readers with dignity and objectivity while managing to introduce some lighthearted comments.

While I agreed the epilogue segued into the sensationalism he avoided throughout the rest of the book, which he acknowledges as he does it, it didn't detract from the extent of the research or the treatment of the subject.  This is well worth a read to become familiar with a fascinating subject that has such culturally diverse meanings.

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

New Picture Books!

We've gotten some fun new kids's books in.  Here are my faves!

Daddy Long Legs by Nadine Brun-Cosme and Aureli Guillerey

This adorable book is a cute interaction between a boy and his father.  When the car has trouble starting, Matthew gets worried that Daddy might not be able to come get him after school.  Daddy lets Matthew know in bigger and crazier ideas, that he will always find a way to get to his son.

Raymond by Yann & Gwendal Le Bec

Raymond is a dog who has a pretty good life.  But he wonders if it could get even better if he did things more like his human family does.  He becomes very successful but has to wonder if giving up his former life is worth it.  This is an especially cute read for those who love to imagine their pets doing great things and there are enough puns to satisfy adults as they read aloud.

MINE! by Jeff Mack

Can you write a hilarious, spot-on (for toddlers and young children) book with only one word?  Jeff Mack can! The expressions of the mice are priceless and the action-oriented illustrations keep the story rolling until the surprise ending.  This is just flat-out fun!

Super Narwhal and Jelly Jolt by Ben Clanton

Follow the adventures of Narwhal (Unicorn of the Sea) and sidekick Jelly as they go on some super adventures in the second book in the series.  This fun graphic novel is excellent for younger readers who love adventure but may be intimidated by chapters.  Plus--it's about superheroes; you can't beat that!

Monday, 26 June 2017

Summer Reading Program!!!

Yikes! It's about time I catch up.  We've been racing through gearing up and now starting our Summer Reading Program at the library.  The theme this year is "Reading by Design" so we're taking a look at lots of different things that we can design.

First we looked at music and instruments and how those are designed (thanks to our speakers Bobby Anderson and Garrett Anderson).

Next we looked at how gardens and plants are designed.  Then we made our own with fantastic homemade play dough and clay.  This was a good opportunity to try several different recipes and discover the differences in texture and other physical characteristics of these different doughs.

We've even had a Teen program where we experimented with henna tattoos.
Next up on the list is Robotics, Engineering and STEM activities.

So much to do, so little time!  If you're not a part of your library's summer reading program, you should be!  Many libraries (like mine and the Alamogordo Public Library) have programs for adults as well so nobody is left out of the fun!

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Dr. Seuss Day!

We had fun for Dr. Seuss Day this year!

I wanted to have a fun carnival-style party for the kids to celebrate one of the most influential authors of early literacy.  (For more information on Theodor Geisel, click here)

Can you guess who I dressed up as?

I read a book and I had a guest reader (special guest and regular storytime reader... my awesome sister!).  I read Green Eggs and Ham and Jill read Fox in Socks.

Thanks, Jill, for reading!!! (Fox in Socks is her specialty--those tongue twisters don't phase her)

Green Eggs and Ham!

The view through the truffula trees!

Yummy snacks! Truffula seeds, and Lorax oranges, just off to the side are the "1 Fish, 2 Fish Goldfish" and the Hop on Pop-corn!

Can't be thirsty if you have Pink Yink Ink Drink, right?

My staff got into, it too!

Oobleck... some kids loved it and some were hesitant.

Cat in the Hat Stack!

Oh, the Places You'll Go Suitcase Journal (made from a lunch bag!)

We had a very good time and are looking forward to next year!!

Monday, 6 March 2017

New Book Review--Scar Island

Welcome to Scar Island.  Actually, un-welcome...

Island, lighthouse, asylum, boys' reform school, sanctuary or prison?


I found this book to be strongly written, great character development and excellent pacing.  While I usually lament the lack of plot resolution in action books--this one didn't actually  need it.  The resolution is built into the characters and continues to tell the story after the last page.  The story is dark but not too dark, scary but not overwhelming.  While an experienced reader can't help but draw comparisons between this and Lord of the Flies the author deflates any arguments of comparison by referencing that and other classic titles--incorporated so that I now want to read or re-read the books mentioned.

The adult/parent/educator part of me really enjoyed the homage paid to classic literature as well as the emotional appeal of reading aloud that plays a part in the plot as well as an unexpected librarian who acts almost as an oracle.

I am taking this book home for my boys to read--they are going to love the dismal setting, the well-paced action and the strong characters.  Z and E will identify with some, shy away from others, and feel the sense of healing they undergo as the story reaches its peak. Fantastic adventure with just enough poignancy to satisfy but more than enough action to keep things exciting!

Thank you Dan Gemeinhart for this superb story!