Posts Tagged ‘booklists’

Sciency fiction and nonfiction

May 30, 2011 @ 12:22 pm | Filed under: ,

A booklist I’m putting together for later use:

Joy Hakim’s The Story of Science trilogy. Jeanne Faulconer’s review shifted these from “I keep meaning to take a look at those” to “that’s what I’ll use my gift certificate on.”

Animals Charles Darwin Saw by Sandra Markle, illustrated by Zina Saunders. A beautiful and informative picture book about Darwin’s travels, observations, thought processes, conclusions.

Charles and Emma: The Darwins’ Leap of Faith by Deborah Heiligman. Jane & I both enjoyed this thoughtful biography last year; I’d like for Rose and Beanie to read it too.

The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly. This frank and funny middle-grade novel set in 1899 was one of my favorite reads of 2010, and I wasn’t a bit surprised when it took the Newbery Honor that year. Three or four of us have read it already, but I don’t think Beanie has yet, and its tomboy heroine is very much up her alley. (An aside: this book would make an interesting pairing with New Dawn on Rocky Ridge, another turn-of-the-century tale.)

Archimedes and the Door to Science by Jeanne Bendick; also her Galen and Galileo books. Longtime Jane favorites, as is The Mystery of the Periodic Table, which seems to have been co-authored by Jeanne Bendick and Benjamin Wiker.

Gregor Mendel: The Friar Who Grew Peas by Cheryl Bardoe, illustrated by Jos A. Smith. My friend Eileen recommended this picture book a while back.

Some of No Starch Press’s Manga Guides: Electricity, Physics, Relativity, etc. And I’d like a look at Larry Gonick’s Cartoon Guide to Physics.

The Beak of the Finch by Jonathan Weiner. Jane loved this book; I’m eager for a crack at it myself. An account of Peter and Rosemary Grant’s twenty years observing the finches of Daphne Major in the Galapagos.

The Voyage of the Beagle: Darwin’s account of his journey.

If you were along for my Fruitless Fall bee-frenzy two years ago, you may recall that the author, Rowan Jacobsen, was an MFA-program classmate of mine at UNC-Greensboro. The other day I remembered that I hadn’t checked in a while to see what new and interesting books he might have out. WELL. I read the sample chapters of his American Terroir, The Living Shore, and Shadows on the Gulf: A Journey through Our Last Great Wetland, and, well, now all three books are on their way. Scott insisted, and Jane—who loved his book on chocolate even more than the bee book, which is saying something—is ecstatic.

The Librarian Who Measured the Earth by Kathryn Lasky, illustrated by Kevin Hawkes. Picture book I’ve heard good things about but haven’t read yet.

The Tree of Life: Charles Darwin, a perfectly gorgeous book by the great Peter Sis.

I’ll be adding to this list over time. For example, I know we have good biographies of Marie Curie and Pasteur that Jane has read more than once, but not the other girls. Jacqueline Houtman’s The Reinvention of Edison Thomas might fit the bill; I’ve wanted to read that one since the author’s interesting presentation at Kidlitcon last fall. I love her description of ‘sciency fiction’ as the genre she works in:

“In sciency fiction, science (actual, accurate, non-speculative science) is integral to the plot and/or thematic content of the novel. The characters and events may be fictional, but the science is not. Sciency fiction is not science fiction.”

(Mind you, I’m a huge science fiction fan, as well. Jane says she can’t imagine growing up without Ender’s Game. [Mature language warning for that one, okay?] But in recent years I have become more and more hooked on what Jacqueline calls sciency fiction, as well as science-themed nonfiction.)

Feel free to chime in with sciency fiction and nonfiction your kids have enjoyed. I’m particularly interested in picture books. Snowflake Bentley, perhaps?

Books about the Middle Ages

May 22, 2010 @ 4:16 pm | Filed under:

Earlier this week, Phoebe asked me to recommend books about the middle ages. Jane and I went around the house pulling things off shelves. The timing was perfect, because I’ve been on a bit of a middle ages jag myself, ever since reading The Perilous Gard (so good! read it!!) which though set in Tudor times, at the cusp of Elizabeth’s reign, is a retelling of the medieval Tam Lin ballad. I’ve listened to perhaps a dozen different renditions of Tam Lin over the past few weeks; this one by Bob Hay and the Jolly Beggars.

Here’s a list of the middle-ages-related books we found around the house. There are many other wonderful books about the middle ages, of course. (Rosemary Sutcliffe and Susan Cooper novels come to mind.) Feel free to leave your own lists (or links to your lists) in the comments!

Disclaimer: Not all of these are appropriate for younger children.
** indicates my family’s favorites


Black Horses for the King by Anne McCaffrey (YA novel; Arthurian legend–how “Lord Artos” got horses strong enough to carry knights in full regalia)
Otto of the Silver Hand by Howard Pyle
What Happened in Hamelin by Gloria Skurzynski (middle-grade novel; Pied Piper)**
The Minstrel in the Tower by Gloria Skurzynski (chapter book; brother & sister on perilous quest)
The Door in the Wall by Marguerite de Angeli (middle grade novel; knighthood, woodcarving; battle)**
The Great and Terrible Quest by Margaret Lovett
The Apple and the Arrow by Mary & Conrad Buff (William Tell)
Adam of the Road by Elizabeth Janet Gray**
Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott
Knight’s Castle by Edward Eager (set in 20th century, but the children wind up inside the Ivanhoe story, sort of)**
A Proud Taste for Scarlet and Miniver by E.L. Konigsburg (middle-grade novel about Eleanor of Aquitaine, mother of King Richard the Lion Heart and King John)
Catherine Called Birdyby Karen Cushman
CLASSICAL MEDIEVAL STORIES including Arthurian tales

Medieval Romances edited by Roger Sherman Loomis & Laura Hibbard Loomis (Perceval, Tristan & Isolt, Sir Gawain & the Green Knight, etc; this was the text for my college Medieval Lit class & has a highly quotable intro, which I shall indeed quote in the next post)
Favorite Medieval Tales by Mary Pope Osborne, illustrated by Troy Howell (Finn Maccoul, Beowulf, Arthur, Song of Roland, Sir Gawain & the Green Knight; Robin Hood, Chanticleer)**
The Story of King Arthur and His Knights by Howard Pyle
The Sword in the Stone by T.H. White (Arthur)**
The Acts of King Arthur and His Noble Knights by John Steinbeck (based on the Malory)
The Story of King Arthur by Tom Crawford (Dover Children’s Classics)
The Canterbury Tales by Chaucer (of course!!)


The Story of the World, Vol. 2: The Middle Ages by Susan Wise Bauer
How the Irish Saved Civilization by Thomas Cahill
Living Long Ago (Usborne Books, lots of pictures: clothes, customs, housing)
Famous Men of the Middle Ages by John H. Haaren & A. B. Poland (Attila the Hun, Barbarossa, Clovis, Justinian, etc)**
A Medieval Feast by Aliki (picture book)**
The Life of King Alfred by Asser, Bishop of Sherborne (written in Latin around 888AD, translated by J.A. Giles)

NONFICTION, SORT OF (contains legend or considerable fictionalization)

Our Island Story by H.E. Marshall
The Sailor Who Captured the Sea by Deborah Nourse Lattimore (picture book: Book of Kells; illuminated manuscripts; monasteries; Vikings attack Ireland) (This maybe belongs just under fiction)


Around the Year: Once Upon a Time Saints by Ethel Pochocki (not all the saints depicted here are medieval, but many are)
Our Island Saints by Amy Steedman
Patrick, Saint of Ireland by Tomie de Paola (picture book; early middle ages)
Tomie de Paola also did picture books about St Francis and Sts Benedict & Scholastica, but I couldn’t find those today)
Brigid’s Cloak by Bryce Milligan, illustrated by Helen Cann


Saint George and the Dragon by Margaret Hodges, illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman (picture book; although St George predates the middle ages, the dragon legend comes from Spenser’s The Faerie Queen [1590] and is based on medieval writings–the Arthurian stories of Geoffrey of Monmouth [1136]; Hyman’s illustrations have borders reminiscent of illuminated manuscripts)
Chanticleer and the Fox by Barbara Cooney, based on the story from The Canterbury Tales**
Heckedy Peg by Don & Audrey Wood (picture book; fairy tale; setting is a medieval village)**
The Irish Cinder Lad by Shirley Climo, illustrated by Loretta Krupinski (picture book; Irish fairy tale; dragon, castle, princess)
The Three Sorrowful Tales of Erin by F.M. Pilkington (Irish fairy tales; Children of Lir)
The King of Ireland’s Son by Padraic Colum (novel-length Irish folk tale)**


Twain’s bio of St. Joan of Arc
Heaney’s translation of Beowulf
Dante’s Divine Comedy
Stories about Robin Hood (we have several versions

Good Sir Boy of Wonder

2009 Booklist

January 1, 2010 @ 1:08 pm | Filed under:

Gosh I read some good stuff in 2009.

I’ve been tinkering with this post for days and am just going to give up and post it, despite some screwy links. I’ll fix it later, maybe. Or I might be too busy reading.

Updated 1/2/10: Links fixed. I think. Let me know if you find any errors. Also: I added a couple of titles I missed, including the Lizzie Skurnick book, and took out the “books I haven’t finished yet” section because I realized there were many more titles to add to that list and it ought to be its own post.

Fiction I especially enjoyed:

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley (notes)
The Diamond Age by Neal Stephenson (notes)
When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead (notes)
The Sherwood Ring by Elizabeth Marie Pope (notes)
The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey (notes)
Lost by Jacqueline Davies (notes)
Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins (discussion)
The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart (notes)
Genesis by Bernard Beckett
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows (discussion)
The Uncommon Reader: A Novella by Alan Bennett (notes)
The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly

Books written by real-life friends (I hit the jackpot here this year):

The Pretend Wife by Bridget Asher
Chocolate Unwrapped by Rowan Jacobsen (notes)
Fruitless Fall: The Collapse of the Honey Bee and the Coming Agricultural Crisis by Rowan Jacobsen (notes)
The Rosary by Karen Edmisten (notes)
Secret History of the Authority: Hawksmoor by Mike Costa and Fiona Staples
Damosel by Stephanie Spinner (post)
The Year We Disappeared: A Father-Daughter Memoir by Cylin Busby and John Busby
Alphonse Issue 1 (comic book by Matthew Lickona, illustrated by Christopher Gugliotti)

Classics I’m glad I made time for:

A Room with a View by E. M. Forster (a favorite re-read)
Daisy Miller by Henry James
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Washington Square by Henry James (notes)
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (yes, again)
• “The Sisters” by James Joyce

Books about books and culture:

Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi (notes)
Shakespeare Wrote for Money by Nick Hornby
Housekeeping vs. the Dirt by Nick Hornby (notes here, here)
The Polysyllabic Spree by Nick Hornby (notes)
The Film Club: A Memoir by David Gilmour (notes)
The Twilight of American Culture by Morris Berman
Shelf Discovery by Lizzie Skurnick

Middle-grade and YA fiction:

Betsy’s Wedding by Maud Hart Lovelace
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (notes)
Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson
Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
Betsy and Tacy Go Over the Big Hill by Maud Hart Lovelace (notes)
Heaven to Betsy by Maud Hart Lovelace (notes)
Meet the Malones by Lenora Mattingly Weber
Beany Malone by Lenora Mattingly Weber
Viola in Reel Life by Adriana Trigiana
Twisted by Laurie Halse Anderson
Pretty Dead by Francesca Lia Block
The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan
The Chosen One by Carol Lynch Williams
Sweethearts by Sara Zarr
Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
Coraline by Neil Gaiman (notes)
Rules by Cynthia Lord (notes)
The Plain Princess by Phyllis McGinley
The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart
Stolen by Vivian Vande Velde (notes)

Adult fiction:

The Actor and the Housewife by Shannon Hale (notes and discussion)
Strangers and Sojourners by Michael D. O’Brien (one of his best)
Plague Journal by Michael D. O’Brien
Eclipse of the Sun by Michael D. O’Brien (not one of his best)
Juliet, Naked by Nick Hornby
The Unit by Ninni Holmqvist
Fables Vol. 1: Legends in Exile by Bill Willingham and Lan Medina
Gilead: A Novel by Marilynne Robinson
Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict by Laurie Viera Rigler
Elephants Can Remember by Agatha Christie
Little Brother by Cory Doctorow
Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom by Cory Doctorow (notes)
Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie
Austenland: A Novel by Shannon Hale
The Music Teacher by Barbara Hall (notes)
The Moving Finger (Miss Marple Mysteries) by Agatha Christie
The Ten-Year Nap by Meg Wolitzer (notes)
World Made by Hand by James Howard Kunstler (notes)

Harrowing memoirs:

The Bite of the Mango by Mariatu Kamara with Susan McClelland
George & Sam: Two Boys, One Family, and Autism by Charlotte Moore (brief notes)
Night by Elie Wiesel


Taming of the Shrew
A Man for All Seasons


Yeats, Heaney, Frost, Dickinson, Van Duyn, Collins, Baggott, Milne, Stevenson, Longfellow, and others

I can’t help but notice that I didn’t read a great many of the books I thought I was going to read. Declaring my readerly intentions on the blog seemed to be a particularly dooming act; the contrarian in me quietly rearranged my TBR list every time I posted one. And yet I have just as strong an urge as ever to fill up this space with Lists of Books I Intend to Read, No Really, I Mean It This Time, in 2010. Starting with…no, no! I must be strong. No TBR lists.