Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Summer reading

I've been reading some advanced readers copies this week and this week's pile seems to be non-fiction.  The first one is called Fur, Fins, and Feathers by Cassandre Maxwell.  It's a picture book biography about Abraham Bartlett who is considered the founder of the modern zoo.  As a small boy, he had the opportunity to interact with big animals that were on display and fell in love with them.  He taught himself about the care and needs of animals by reading and observation.  When he was appointed the director of the London Zoo, he was able to put his ideas into practice, creating more humane spaces and more successful feeding strategies.  The pictures are bright and engaging and I think kids are really going to like this one.  It would be good paired up with "Mother to Tigers" by George Ella Lyon, which was about Helen Martini, the founder of the Bronx Zoo nursery.

The second one is called "Book: My Autobiography" by John Agard.  It's a non fiction book about the history of the written language.  I read this one as an advanced readers copy on my Kindle but I really wish I could see what this one will look like as an actual book because the story is great. The voice of the storyteller (the book!) is funny and informal, so even though the material is a little dry, it moves along quite quickly.   It will work perfectly for one of the Montessori lessons on the history of language but it's really hard to tell for whom it might be appropriate.  The Montessori lesson I'm thinking of is targeted at kids ages 6-9 and this one felt like it might be a little big for them, just because the text in this version was pretty dense and the pictures, while interesting, were too far between.  So I'm reserving judgment.  I want to see this one in book format before I buy it,  but I'm definitely going to look for it.  

The last one is also a biography but it's for bigger kids.  It's called "Symphony For the City of the Dead: Dmitri Shostakovich and the Siege of Leningrad" by M. T. Anderson.  This was a very interesting story about Shostakovich and his work.  The book starts in the middle... a spy network is trying to smuggle a piece of microfilm out of Russia and it turns out the microfilm has Shostakovic's 7th symphony, more than 100 pages of music, on it.  The music is analyzed, along with the text for any kind of message that might be lurking to help with the war effort.  The story then goes back and tells about Shostakovic's early life and training, moving forward though his entire life, from fame and fortune to distrust and derision.   There are black and white photographs that illustrate points.  I read the book while listening to Shostakovic's 7th's symphony.  I thought it was really interesting to read about this time period.  I've read historical fiction about it and so having some non-fiction was a good counter point.  I also liked how the author used interviews with people around Shostakovic, like his aunt and his sisters, to help make his points.

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