Run for It: Stories of Slaves Who Fought for Their Freedom by Marcelo D’Salete

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Title: Run for It: Stories of Slaves Who Fought for Their Freedom by Marcelo D’Salete

Premise:

This book contains four short stories about slavery in Brazil and the way that slaves resisted it to the best of their ability.  Chapters include: Kalunga, Sumidouro, Cumbe, and Malungo.

My thoughts:

This was an interesting read, and I’m still not sure exactly how to process it.  It’s a story told mostly in pictures with minimal text, and you really have to read between the lines and study the pictures to know what is happening.  It’s not really a book about right and wrong.  Readers are shown some very difficult situations and experiences, and how people reacted under those circumstances.  Sometimes violence begets violence.  The stories don’t have warm, cushy endings.  However, they do show the resilience of those who languished under slavery and their determination to be free from oppression.  It shines a glaring light on the moral corruption which accompanies slavery.

Certainly, you have to read the two short introductory blurbs at the beginning of the book to get the context for the stories.  Even then, there is a lot of background information which isn’t included.  I wish there had been a bit more about Brazil’s history with slavery, but maybe this book could be seen as a jumping off point for readers to seek out additional sources.

The drawings are in black and white, so even in the scenes with violence you don’t see graphic blood or anything.  Also, the drawings are somewhat stylized, so things that might be too much if done with a lot of detail are less offensive to look at.

I recommend Run For It to older teens and adults who want to learn more about slavery and resistance.  It wasn’t just an issue in the United States, but that’s where a lot of the currently available literature takes place.  Also a note on the possible objection of seeing a woman’s bare chest–this book adopts the traditional African view of a woman’s chest being utilitarian more than erotic.  It’s for feeding children and there’s nothing shameful or sexually charged in that.

Possible Objections:

  • Some violence
  • Bare women’s chests
  • A couple of rape scenes (not graphic)

Rating: 3 1/2 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

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Luther: The Graphic Novel: Echoes of the Hammer by Susan K. Leigh

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Title: Luther: The Graphic Novel: Echoes of the Hammer by Susan K. Leigh

Premise:

Martin Luther becomes an Augustinian monk, under the leadership of the Catholic church.  When he starts studying the Bible for himself, he comes to question some of the church’s teachings.  Luther seeks reform within the Catholic church to return to a form of worship and practices which more closely mirror that of the early church.  Eventually he is excommunicated and ends up being a very important contributor to the Reformation.

My thoughts:

This is a dense graphic novel!  It includes a lot of Luther’s timeline and other facts which have a bearing on his story, so it can feel more like textbook reading than a comic book at times.  Even though the interest factor wanes a bit when they have to provide some deeper explanations, I think they did a fair job of balancing the action with the information.  The illustrations were very nicely done, too.

The story of Luther’s life was quite interesting.  I didn’t remember much about what he accomplished, except that he translated the Bible into German so that everyday people would have access to it.  I think this is an excellent book to introduce young people to Luther’s life, but it is not without bias.  I noticed a few statements when the author inserts their personal opinion into the narrative, instead of just sharing the facts.  I’m not too surprised though, since the book is published by Concordia.

I recommend Luther: Echoes of the Hammer to parents who want to introduce their kids to the history of Martin Luther and the Reformation.  Personally, I would talk with my kids about the fact that the book is a bit biased.  It’s good for kids to be able to identify when opinion is being presented as fact.  😉

Rating: 3 1/2 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales: Treaties, Trenches, Mud, and Blood by Nathan Hale

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Title: Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tale: Treaties, Trenches, Mud, and Blood by Nathan Hale

Notable: Book #4 in the Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales series

Premise:

Nathan Hale teaches readers all about World War I through the medium of a graphic novel.  Each nation’s characters are portrayed by a particular animal (i.e.: Britain is the English Bulldog) to help keep the characters straight.

My thoughts:

So far, this is my absolute favorite book in the series!  The author told an amazingly cohesive story, considering it spans years and involves many nations and many battles.  The book doesn’t cover all of the battles or even touch on all aspects of the war, but it gives you a well-balanced overview of the entire war and the reasons behind the decisions that were made.

Prior to this book, I had never read anything about WWI.  This was an excellent introduction to the subject, because it gave me a basic, broad understanding of a very complex subject.  It’s certainly enough to start kids with, and if you’re older you’ll want to do further research.  I will definitely be reading more books about WWI in the future, because now it’s not just this big, confusing war which gets jumbled up in my mind.

The thing that most struck me in this story was the sheer wastefulness that resulted from WWI.  It started from a situation which could have been resolved with some wisdom and diplomacy.  Unfortunately, hotheads won out and 9 million people lost their lives in the end.  NINE MILLION–all because of the assassination of one man!  Think about that for a while.  I think this book is an excellent way to show kids the true nature of war, the huge toll that it takes, and the value of resolving conflict peacefully.  It’s a very sobering story.

I recommend Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales: Treaties, Trenches, Mud, and Blood to kids, from elementary through the teen years.  Even for older folks, it’s a fun way to learn about history.

A favorite quote:

“Humanity is mad.  It must be mad to do what it is doing.  What a massacre!  What scenes of horror and carnage: I cannot find words to translate my impressions.  Hell cannot be so terrible.  Men are mad!”  (p. 87, from the journal of a French lieutenant, WWI)

Rating: 5 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales: Big Bad Ironclad! by Nathan Hale

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Title: Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales: Big Bad Ironclad! by Nathan Hale

Notable: Book #2 in the Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales series

Premise:

In this book, Nathan Hale tells the Hangman and the British Soldier a tale about ironclad ships which fought during the American Civil War.  Both the North and South experimented with covering wooden ships with thick iron, both to make them impervious to enemy fire and to use as a formidable offensive weapon.

My thoughts:

This is a really fun way to teach kids about a lesser known aspect of the Civil War.  When I was a kid I never heard anything about the iron-covered ships that were used during the Civil War.  The designs were ingenious and, unfortunately, caused a lot of destruction.

We also learn about the exploits of Will Cushing, a young man who enjoyed pulling pranks, was kicked out of the Navy, and later went on to do great exploits when his pranks were put to good use in the Navy.  His tale adds the personal element that I think this story would otherwise be lacking.

The way this story is told is a bit meandering and not terribly cohesive, but I think that’s because it’s talking about the concept of iron ships, rather than a specific event in history.  Also, it doesn’t cover the entire story of the Civil War.  If you want your child to understand more about the overarching story of the Civil War, you’ll have to supplement their reading.  With that being said, I still think this is a great book to teach kids about history!

I recommend Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales: Big Bad Ironclad! to kids who enjoy graphic novels and would prefer to learn about history through that medium.  Even for older folks, it’s a fun way to learn about history.

 

Rating: 4 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales: One Dead Spy by Nathan Hale

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Title: Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales: One Dead Spy by Nathan Hale

Notable: Book #1 in the Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales series

Premise:

Nathan Hale is a young man who has enrolled at Yale to become a teacher, however, the Revolutionary War sends him down a different life path.  Hale enlists in the army and is promoted within a short period of time.  Though he commands other troops, Hale doesn’t see a lot of action.  In a bid to prove himself, he volunteers to be Washington’s first spy–to learn what he can about the plans of the British army.  Unfortunately, things take at turn for the worse for this promising young man once he enters enemy territory.

My thoughts:

Since this is the first book in the series, it introduces readers to the three ongoing main characters: the Hangman, the British Soldier and Nathan Hale.  The premise is that while Nathan is waiting on the gallows to be hanged, he’s swallowed by a giant history book and absorbs all of the knowledge that it contains about U.S. history.  When he comes out of the book, he convinces the Hangman and Soldier to wait to hang him until he can tell them his story.  (After his story, they agree to wait so that he can tell them another interesting story from American history.)  I should also mention that the books in this series don’t really need to be read in order.

Hale’s personal story is fairly simple.  He was a young man with dreams of doing something brave for his country and that was largely denied him because he was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.  Once he volunteers to spy for Washington, it’s easy to see that he’s not exactly the ideal candidate, but it’s admirable that he is willing to give all in the service of his country.  A spy needs to be a bit more jaded and cunning than Hale was, and his naiveté worked against him in his role as spy.  It’s sad that his life was cut short at such a young age, but he certainly wasn’t the only young man to die during that time period to secure freedom for America.

At the end of the the book there’s a bit more biographical information about some of the more colorful characters in the story, and a section with the story of Crispus Attucks–both very interesting.

This book isn’t my favorite in the series, but I think that’s because the author was finding his way and experimenting with this first book.  In later books, I think he has managed to hone his style and creativity in storytelling a little more.  With that said, I still think it’s a worthwhile read.

I’ve really come to like the author’s style of illustrations.  They definitely appeal to a younger audience, but I think they’re just as engaging for older folks, too.  I love learning about history this way!  Both of my boys read the book, and they want to read the entire series.  No problem, boys!

I recommend Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales: One Dead Spy to kids who enjoy graphic novels and would prefer to learn about history through that medium.  Even for older folks, it’s a fun way to learn about history.

Possible Objections:

  • Violence (though the illustrations are not graphic)

Rating: 4 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales: Donner Dinner Party by Nathan Hale

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Title: Donner Dinner Party by Nathan Hale

Notable: Book #3 in the Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales series

Premise:

We follow James Reed and family as they journey West to California.  Reed insists on taking a shortcut which he has read about in a book, which results in disastrous consequences.  The traveling party experiences death, illness, murder, the loss of oxen and cattle, and finally being stuck on top of a mountain in the middle of winter.  What they resort to in their efforts to survive are quite shocking.

My thoughts:

Just like the other Nathan Hale books, this one is an engaging way to learn about history.  Kids will love the playful supporting characters, quality illustrations, and interesting way that historical events are presented.  I will warn you, however, that this book is not for the faint of heart!

The story starts off well enough.  The Reed family wants to go out West to seek their fortune and they join with others to form a wagon train.  James Reed convinces others to follow Hastings cutoff, which he read about in a book (written by a lawyer, not a frontiersman).  Despite numerous warnings and indications that it is an unwise course of action, Reed persists, believing himself to be in the right.  That decision leads to horrific consequences.

I’ll give away the shocking bit here, so if you don’t want to know, stop reading.  When the Donner party find themselves stranded for the winter with very few supplies, they eventually have to resort to cannibalism to stay alive.  Thankfully, they don’t show any icky bits in the illustrations.  I still get the creeps thinking about it.  Reading this story makes you wonder what you would do if you were in their shoes.  It’s easy to say, “I would never do that.”  But then again, if you were starving, your thinking would probably be a bit skewed.

I’d say use your discretion in allowing your child to read this book.  Some will have no problem reading about cannibalism, while for others it would be traumatizing.  My 10- and 12-year-old boys read it and were fine, but my 8-year-old girl would probably hate it.

I recommend Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales: Donner Dinner Party to kids who enjoy graphic novels and would prefer to learn about history through that medium.  This particular book is best suited to mature elementary-age children up to teens, or even adults.

Possible Objections:

  • Violence (though the illustrations are not graphic)
  • Cannibalism

Rating: 4 1/2 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

Caddie Woodlawn by Carol Ryrie Brink

caddie-woodlawn

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I read Caddie Woodlawn years ago, as a child.  I love frontier adventures which feature female heroines.  The fact that this story takes place in the area I grew up in makes it that much more interesting to me.  This is a 1936 Newbery Medal winner, too!

Premise:

The story is about the life of Caddie Woodlawn and her family in the early Wisconsin frontier during the Civil War era.  Her parents came to the Wisconsin wilderness from Boston to make a new life for themselves, settling in the area of Downsville.  The story is rather like a memoir–sharing specific stories from Caddie’s life which she shared with her family.  It was her granddaughter, Carol Ryrie Brink, who put the stories into book form.

My thoughts:

The most enthralling thing about this book, for me personally, is that it took place in the area where I grew up.  It’s fun to imagine Caddie and her brothers traipsing through the wilderness (which is now quite developed land).  Have we walked along the same stretch of river?  Where exactly was her family’s farm?

Caddie is such a fun tomboyish character.  Her father is given charge of her upbringing, in the hopes that more vigorous activities (a.k.a. hanging out with her brothers), will help keep her healthy.  (One of her older sisters became weak and died when she was coddled by their mother in the rough frontier land.)  Caddie and her brothers engage in all sorts of shenanigans, and eventually Caddie matures and realizes that growing up isn’t quite the awful thing that she always thought it would be.

The one criticism I have for the book is its outdated language pertaining to Native Americans.  For its time, this book is fairly forward-thinking, but it will still be offensive to today’s readers.  There are a few instances where the terms “redskins,” “savages,” and “half-breeds” are used.  I recommended the book to my son, but prefaced it with a discussion on terms referring to and attitudes towards Native Americans at that period in history.

There are a couple of circumstances relating to the Native American characters in the story which help teach kids a lesson in accepting others.  Caddie’s friendship with Indian John, and her act of love for the Hankinson kids are two of my favorite scenes from the entire book.  You’ll see why when you read them.  Sometimes it takes a child to know what is right and to follow through, even when the adults around them would rather cling to suspicion and prejudice.

I recommend this book to older elementary-age children, up to teens.  It’s a fun look into U.S. history which gives kids a good view into what everyday life may have looked like for white settlers.

Possible Objections:

  • Some offensive/outdated racial language referring to Native Americans (“savages,” “redskins”)

Rating: 4 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales: The Underground Abductor by Nathan Hale

underground-abductor

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I requested The Underground Abductor from the library as part of my quest to find interesting graphic novels for children.  I could not put this one down!  I didn’t know much about Harriet Tubman, but now I want to find some adult books to learn more.

Premise:

Araminta Ross was born a slave, but she dreamed of freedom for herself and her family.  She escaped to the North and later, as Harriet Tubman, returned for her family.  In her journeys she led many others to freedom on the Underground Railroad, met Frederick Douglass and John Brown, and worked as a spy during the Civil War.  Harriet Tubman became a legend in her time, known as “General Moses” for her unequivocal success in leading her people to freedom.

My thoughts:

I absolutely loved this book!  Araminta (better known as Harriet Tubman) was an amazing young woman who was born into slavery in Maryland.  She worked hard and eventually made plans to secure her freedom.  When she found out that she was going to be sold and would not be able to buy her own freedom, she made the decision to run away to the North.  Harriet was successful and had started to settle into a new life, but when she heard about “The Fugitive Slave Act of 1850”, she knew that she had to get her family to freedom sooner rather than later.

Harriet made many trips into the South to bring her family (and many others) to freedom.  Because of a head injury she received as a child, Harriet suffered from narcolepsy and during these sleep episodes she would see visions from God.  These visions helped guide her on the many dangerous trips she took, and alerted her to dangers along the way.

Harriet also aided the North during the civil war, acting as nurse, spy and consultant.  During one particular episode, she helped lead about 800 slaves to freedom in one night, when she aided Colonel Montgomery and his Jayhawkers.

Amazingly, Harriet Tubman survived all of the dangers she faced throughout her life and eventually settled with her family in Auburn, New York.  Her dedication, drive, and courage are an amazing example to all of us.  When there is something worth fighting for, don’t give up.

I recommend this book to kids who enjoy graphic novels and would prefer to learn about history through that medium.  This particular book is best suited to elementary-age children up to teens.

Possible Objections:

  • Violence (though the illustrations are not graphic)

Rating: 5 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

Nathan Hale: Revolutionary Spy by Nathan Olson

nathan-hale-revolutionary-spy

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Here’s another book from my quest to find interesting graphic novels.  Nathan Hale: Revolutionary Spy is a book that can be digested in one sitting.

Premise:

Nathan Hale was a young man who lived in Connecticut immediately prior to the Revolutionary War.  He was a student at Yale and later taught others (even getting up to teach girls for free).  Having grown up amid the colonists’ unrest due to British taxes, he volunteered to join the army.  Nathan’s willingness to serve as a spy and his refusal to betray his country are commendable.  Unfortunately, his life was cut short when he was only 21 years old.

My thoughts:

I think this book is a great beginner biography for elementary-age children.  They get a quick overview of Nathan’s life–just enough to pique their interest.  Once they’re at a higher reading level they can come back to Nathan’s story and read a book that is more in depth.

I enjoyed reading about Nathan and the defining moments in his life.  He sounds like a remarkable young man, and it’s a tragedy that his life was cut short.  I’m sure he would have gone on to do many more commendable deeds had he lived longer.  Particularly gratifying was his view on the importance of educating women.  He was truly ahead of his times!

The book is divided into four very short chapters: Student and Teacher, Soldier and Leader, Daring Spy, and War Hero.  At the end, you’ll find a section with more information about Nathan Hale.

I recommend this book to kids who enjoy graphic novels and would prefer to learn about history through that medium.  This particular book is best suited to elementary-age children.

Possible Objections:

  • Nathan is hanged (while we only see his silhouette, kids may still find it disturbing)

Rating: 4 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales: Alamo All-Stars by Nathan Hale

alamo-all-stars

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I read Alamo All-Stars over the course of a couple days. This is a super-fun graphic novel that is perfect for teaching kids about history!  I’m excited to check out the other books in this series.

Premise:

Learn about the early history of the state of Texas, its inhabitants, and their relationship with Mexico.  Who fought for the independence of the Texas?  Why?  How did the Mexican government respond?  What happened at the Alamo?  You’ll find answers to all these questions and more in Alamo All Stars!

My thoughts:

I love this book!  It’s a fantastic way to teach kids about history in a fun and engaging way.  Who wants to read about a bunch of stale dates and names in a history book?  Let kids learn history through graphic novels!!

I’m a big history fan when it’s presented in an interesting format.  Alamo All Stars definitely meets that requirement.  My school days were inexplicably absent of almost any information pertaining to U.S. History.  I don’t know how that happened, but it did.  So I learned about a period of American history that was completely new to me.  And now the story makes sense and will stick with me.  If a person can see a story unfolding before their eyes, it’s more likely that they will retain that information.

It was pretty cool to learn about the roles that Davy Crockett and Jim Bowie played at the Alamo.  (Yes, I’m talking about the man who has a knife named after him.)  I had no idea that they were there!

There are a few stock characters who act as narrators in this book (and the others in the series).  They help provide background information and commentary, as well as a little humor.  The illustrations have a somewhat simple style, but I think they’re quite nice.

I recommend this book for anybody in the elementary to teen years who wants to learn about history in an interesting way.  This would also be great for homeschoolers or to augment a history classroom.

Possible Objections:

  • One instance of the d-word
  • Some violence

Rating: 5 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

The Shores of Tripoli: Lieutenant Putnam and the Barbary Pirates by James L. Haley

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I received an ARC of The Shores of Tripoli and just finished it the other day.  I was intrigued by this book because I didn’t know anything about the Barbary Wars, which took place in the early 1800’s.

Premise:

Readers are taken on a tour of life in the navy during the period of history when the U. S. engaged in the Barbary Wars.  We follow a fictitious main character through a setting, details and events which are accurate and historical.  Bliven Putnam begins his naval career as a midshipman and is promoted to Lieutenant Commodore by the end of the book.  He experiences many fantastic adventures in his time in the navy, which shape him into a man.  There is also commentary on the politics and political climate of the time throughout the story.  Many interesting supporting characters enter into The Shores of Tripoli, such as the rulers of the Barbary States, Commodore Preble, Mr. & Mrs. Barton, Tobias Lear, and Sam Bandy.  They all add considerably the narrative.

My thoughts:

By setting a fictitious character in the midst of history, the author managed to tell a story which was both captivating and informative.  I really enjoyed this story and feel like my understanding of early U. S. history has improved.  The narrative is quite descriptive and compelling, which should keep you reading at a good clip.  The end of the book leaves you hanging, but they might be setting it up for another installment.

The only issue I had was that I am unfamiliar with the parts of a ship.  The descriptions of what they were doing with sails, jibs, etc. went over my head.

I would recommend this book to those who enjoy learning about history in an entertaining way.  By following Putnam’s journey through real-life events, you will get an insider’s look at the Barbary Wars of the early 1800’s.  It’s certainly an engaging way to learn history!

Possible Objections:

  • Some violence
  • Some sexual themes
  • A bit of foul language/crass words

Rating: 4 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

*I received a free ARC of this book and have shared my honest opinion.

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12 Years a Slave – Movie 2013

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I finally got around to watching 12 Years a Slave, the movie adaptation of the book by the same name.  The first two copies which I requested from the library were scratched, so I couldn’t watch the entire movie.  Copy number three was the charm.

Just to review, this is the story of Solomon Northup, a free man from New York who was kidnapped and sold into slavery in the South.  If you want to know more about the specifics of the story, check out my book review.  The movie follows the book quite closely.  There were a few changes, most of them minor and not detracting from the main story at all.  Of course some things needed to be condensed to keep the length of the movie reasonable.  A benefit to watching the movie over the book is that you lose the old-fashioned language in which the book is written.  The movie emphasizes the events, so you don’t get bogged down with the dated and sometimes awkward language.

My thoughts:

I think that this movie was done wonderfully well.  It’s such a heartbreaking story and that is exactly what it does to you when you watch it–it breaks your heart.  The actors were phenomenal–even the ones you hate do a great job in their role.  Chiwetel Ejiofor, the actor who played Solomon was amazing.  I fully felt that he was Solomon and thought that he conveyed the complex feelings of the character realistically.

There are a few things I should warn you about if you are thinking of seeing this movie.  The dehumanizing and violent treatment of the slaves is very disturbing.  There are a few scenes of graphic violence which show blood spraying and the skin split open from whippings.  There are also a couple of hanging scenes.  I had to unfocus my eyes a few times because I couldn’t bear to just sit there and look at that for more than a couple of seconds.

12 Years a Slave is emotionally raw and it will leave you feeling that way by the end of the movie.  Of course I cried.  You’d have to be a stone not to.  Although it’s painful to watch this type of movie, I think it’s our duty to try and more fully understand the history of our country–even the ugly parts.  We have to learn from our past mistakes.

I highly recommend this movie to adults.

Possible Objections:

  • Nudity
  • A couple of sexual scenes
  • Foul language, including racial epithets
  • Violence, some of it quite graphic

Rated: R

Rating: 5 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

 

OTHER 12 YEARS A SLAVE POSTS:

All Creatures Great and Small by James Herriot

All Creatures

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I went back recently to read a book from one of my favorite series–the memoirs of James Herriot, an English veterinarian from the 1930’s.  This book is called All Creatures Great and Small.

It starts off following James as he enters practice after just having graduated from school.  He lands a job with Siegfried Farnon, an interesting employer.  The book is full of a series of interesting episodes that happened in Mr. Herriot’s life.  Some focus on his patients, some on the people he interacted with, and some on his colleagues.  One thing they all have in common is that they are entertaining.  It’s not just that the stories are entertaining, they are also touching.  You get caught up with the characters and care about their struggles and triumphs, embarrassments and pride, humor and ill-humor.

Mr. Herriot had a refreshing knack for bringing the stories in his past to life for others to enjoy, too.  His writing is wonderful and I thoroughly enjoy it.  I suspect you will, too.  Just be warned that his books are best for adults or older teens.  They have a fair bit of mature subject matter in them.

Possible Objections:

  • Some bad language.
  • Plenty of talk about animal anatomy.
  • Other adult themes.

 Rating: 5 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

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LEGO Minifigure Year by Year: A Visual History by Gregory Farshtey with Daniel Lipkowitz

Lego MinifigsThis post contains an affiliate link.

LEGO Minifigure Year by Year: A Visual History is a book about LEGO minifigs from the years 1978 to 2013.  What I like about it is the cool LEGO guys.  There are lots of unique LEGO guys.  I think it would be best for kids.

Later,

Slime

OTHER COMMENTARY:

Lori — This is just the kind of book that my son loves–lots of photos and encyclopedia-type entries.  The photos are crisp, colorful and engaging.  The contents are formatted very nicely, and a lot of information is shared in the concise text.  I would give this a big thumbs-up for all LEGO fans, whether a child or adult.  It’s just really fun to see the variety of minifigures throughout the years.