Monday, October 12, 2009

Nonfiction

When I have books sent to me through the fabulous Westerville Public Library Link, it's almost always fiction. When I go to the library and browse, I pick up nonfiction. Hmmm.

When helping my daughter pick out a biography, I came across Abram's biography of Anthony Horowitz and had to read it. This is why I don't buy biographies of people until they have passed away-- I'm sure Horowitz will do many more things in the next twenty years. I did learn some interesting facts about the author, and was impressed that he has said he never thought to sue J.K. Rowling because Harry Potter was similar to his Groosham Grange books. Still, there was a lot of his work quoted and not a lot about his actual life. To be expected, but still disappointing.

Chelsea House's Fashions of a Decade looked interesting, so I picked up Elgin's 1930's book. Nice overview of couture, with plenty of pictures, but I was disappointed at the lack of inclusion of every day fashions. Pictures of people waiting in bread lines, perhaps, some Dorothea Lange photographs, or even pages from the Sears Roebuck catalog would have made this a much more useful resource. Also lacking was any mention of children's clothing beyond Shirley Temple.


Picked up Michael Brooke's The Concrete Wave: The History of Skateboarding because it's hard to find books for the skaters that I have. This was interesting, but included a lot of personal memoirs that middle school students will skim over. I need a 64 page overview, similar to the Mason Crest History of Cheerleading book that I have. For high school, this might be good, since it does cover the different eras of skateboarding.

It was also useful to know about trucks and wheels when I read Varrato's Fakie, which was quite good. From Lobster Press, this very slim volume is just the thing for students who want to read about skateboarding but also need a mystery. Alex witnessed his father's death and is now in a witness protection program with his mother. They have to run a lot, and when Alex finally feels at home in a new school with his skateboarding buddies, he is ready to fight his stalker when he is found. Very good.
So was Paulsen's Notes From the Dog. The basic premise of this-- boy who wants to avoid human contact over the summer gets to know a next-door neighbor who has cancer and who enlists him to put in a garden-- sounded unappealing, but the writing was lightly humorous and engaging. Finn and his friend Matthew broaden their circle of friends and gain interpersonal skills while helping Johanna raise money for cancer and help her train for a triathlon while undergoing chemo. The only part that was a bit strained were the notes from the dog, but the ending made me cry. Paulsen can be really good or really awful, and this is one that I will buy. Would make a good class discussion book.


Also a little leery of David Adler's Don't Talk to Me About the War, since it is yet another book set stateside when the majority of my readers want something set at the front. It did, however, paint an excellent picture of what it must have been like to be a teenager during this time. Tommy would much rather hear about his favorite baseball team or hang out with his friend Beth than hear about what is going on in Europe in 1940. He also has to struggle with his mother's illness, which turns out to be multiple sclerosis. This was my only problem with the book-- I don't think that during that time the diagnosis would be made as quickly as it was. My mother had a friend in the 1950s who was put into a mental institution instead of being told she had MS, and even in the early 1990s, it took much longer for a friend of mine to be diagnosed. Still, it is handled well. The ending, with Tommy and his family listening to the radio and hearing the announcement that Pearl Harbor had been bombed, mirrors my own father's experience exactly, so the research on this was well done.

Also looked at but decided that they were of limited interest because they were too old for my library or were Haber's The Pluto Project, Cowan's Earthgirl, Rinaldi's Leigh Ann's Civil War, Carey's Stealing Death, Kwasney's Blue Plate Special, and Heath's The Lab (which had a lot of explosions, but was light on explaining why, which got confusing). My daughter who is in high school is liking Wake and Fade (although issued a warning on vocabulary), Ten Cents a Dance, and Werlin's Impossible, none of which I bought for my library.

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