Dear Book Lovers, Welcome! I am delighted that you have found The Through the Looking Glass blog. For over twenty years I reviewed children's literature titles for my online journal, which came out six times a year. Every book review written for that publication can be found on the Through the Looking Glass website (the link is below). I am now moving in a different direction, though the columns that I write are still book-centric. Instead of writing reviews, I'm offering you columns on topics that have been inspired by wonderful books that I have read. I tell you about the books in question, and describe how they have have impacted me. This may sound peculiar to some of you, but the books that I tend to choose are ones that resonate with me on some level. Therefore, when I read the last page and close the covers, I am not quite the same person that I was when first I started reading the book. The shift in my perspective might be miniscule, but it is still there. The books I am looking are both about adult and children's titles. Some of the children's titles will appeal to adults, while others will not. Some of the adult titles will appeal to younger readers, particularly those who are eager to expand their horizons.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Favorite Children's Book Characters

I was just reading about Hilary Knight, the wonderful illustrator who helped Kay Thompson bring her infamous Eloise to life. Mr. Knight is so talented and his illustrations of the precocious little girl who lives in the Plaza Hotel in New York City are unforgetable. I have always loved Eloise and reading about one of her creators was very interesting. The book, Show and Tell: Exloring the fine art of children's book illustration, is beautifully written and it is really helping me to see children's book illustration in a new way. I highly recommend it.

Not long after reading the chapter about Hilary Knight I came across a blog entry which interested me. The Blog is called The Children's Literature Book Club and the author has created a Children's Literature Alphabet. She has chosen her favorite children's book characters to create an alphabet. Among others Arthur, Eloise, Babar, Babymouse, and Madeline are in the listing. Take a look at the site and share your favorite children's book characters with others.

Monday, June 9, 2008

A Tool for a book lover

If you are visiting this blog you are, in all probability, a bibliophile. I am a confirmed book lover and have suffered from a case of too-many-books-not-enough-space my entire adult life. As a reviewer I have a new, additional, problem. Too-many-books-and-I-don't-know-which-books-I-have-no-matter-how-much-I-organize-everything.

A few days ago I got a tool which book collectors of all kinds will love. I got a hand held scanner which can read ISBN numbers and a program which can sort and categorize book collections. All I have to do is to scan the ISBN number of a book and the program figures out what the book is (by checking online bookstores) and adds it to the database of my choice.

This is a very valuable tool for someone like myself who receives several boxes and packages of books every day of the week except Sunday. I will no longer have to look through every book on the shelf to figure out if a requested book has arrived. If it is there I will know it because everything that comes in will be scanned into the new system. And, in time, everything that is here already will also end up in the system. With every blessed beep of my scanner my sense of knowing what is and what isn't grows. Who would have thought such a simple thing could give a person such peace of mind. Just in case you are interested, this is the website where I got my scanner and program. You can also use this program to keep track of your CD and DVD collections. Whoever invented this program, I thank you from the bottom of my much booked heart.

Contest From Lobster Press

I wanted to let you know that Lobster Press, a marvellous independent publisher based in Montreal, Canada, is hosting a contest. For those of you who have youngsters who like food and cooking this might be a perfect opportunity for you to share one of your favorite recipes with others. The winner of the contest will recieve Yum: You're Ultimate Manual for good nutrition and four other Lobster Press books. For more information visit the contest page on the Lobster Press website. A review of Yum will be appearing on the Through the Looking Glass website in due course.

Piggy love

To continue with the animal theme I seem to have started here, there is another animal that I have a great deal of affection for - pigs. For eight years I had a wonderful pig in my life called Gracie. She was a potbelly who loved most kinds of food, tummy rubs, and company. She did not like cabbage, barking dogs, and strangers. Before my daughter was born Gracie lived in the house. In record time she learned how to open the fridge and she enjoyed stealing empty plastic containers which she played piggy soccer with. She liked to sit on the sofa with us and talked in soft grunts as she moved about the house Alas, Gracie had to move outdoors when it became clear that she might not be too enthusiastic to share her home with an infant. After my daughter was born Gracie lived in a luxurious insulated pig house and had the run of our Virgnia farm.

When we moved to Oregon last September Gracie was found a new home. She just could not safely make the long journey from Virginia. It was hard to leave her behind and I still think of her every time I have a tasty morsel in the house which I know she would have liked. I was delighted therefore to come across a wonderful piggy book called Hogwood Steps Out: A Good, Good Pig Story.

This is a book which really captures the intelligence and loveable nature of these wonderful animals. In the story Christopher Hogwood, a large and amiable pig, takes a walk on a spring morning. He leaves chaos in his wake as he munches and roots his way around the neighborhood. Thankfully the local humans are too fond of Christopher Hogwood to stay angry with him for long. This is definately a book which pig lovers of all ages will enjoy and appreciate.
Just like Chistopher Hogwood's owners, I give thanks that I had the opportunity to have a pig in my life

Thursday, June 5, 2008

A Fondness for Blue-Footed Boobies

I suppose, considering the fact that I studied zoology, one should not be surprised that I love animals. I have quite a few living in my home, and I often go out of my way to make friends with animals that I meet. Just like with any other field of interest, there are certain areas of zoology that I like better than others. I find insects fascinating and think the relationships that sometimes develop between different species are fascinating. And, I have a great fondness for blue-footed boobies. Every since I first read about the Galapagos Islands, these funny looking birds have been steadfast favorites of mine. They have such a silly look about them and those blue feet are priceless. Then I saw a film of their little mating dance and that sold me on these birds. As you can see they lift up their big blue feet and wave them around.

There is even a picture book about a blue-footed booby who builds a career for himself as a dancer. Blue-footed Booby Dance is a charming title and anyone who has dreamed of becoming a star will enjoy it.

Vampires, Werewolves and teenage love

For those of you who can't resist tales peopled by magical, and often dark, creatures, the Mortal Instruments series is a must. For the June issue of Through the Looking Glass Book Review I reviewed the first book in the series, City of Bones. I have just finished reviewing the second book , City of Ashes. the review will be posted in the July issue of the journal. This second book continues the story of Clary, a teenage girl who discovers that she is a Shadowhunter, a human destined to rid the world of demons. Both her parents are Shadowhunters and to Clary's horror she discovers that her father is the kind of person you would really rather disown. Valentine was not a part of her life until recently and she dearly wishes he wasn't a part of it now. Alas, this is not to be. Valentine is here to stay and he is determined to make everyone's life miserable.

Clary's life is complicated further when she discovers that the boy she rather fancies, Jace, is none other than her long lost brother. The problem is that one can't just switch one's heart into reverse when you make a discovery like this. Desperately Clary tries not to feel anything special for Jace, with very little success.

The characters are amazingly credible considering the fact that so many of them are creatures you would not like to meet after night falls. Vampires, werewolves, and crafty faeries abound and blood and body parts splash the pages frequently.
I am sure that this series is going to do very well and can't wait for the third book to come out.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Summer's Back - Maybe

We have been having the oddest weather here in Ashland Oregon. For a week or so we had such hot days that some people decided that bathing suits were the only attire they could stand wearing. Winter clothes were put away and summer clothes were brought out of storage. Then winter came back with a vengeance and we froze for a week or so. After days of rain and low grey skies it feels as if summer may be back again.
It has been a very busy month because both my husband and my daughter celebrate their birthdays in May. There were special dinners to arrange, a party to plan, and gifts to wrap and hide. Like so many children all over the world my daughter is Webkins mad and she was given several to add to her growing collection. I am rapidly running out of names for the additions to her furry menagerie.
Work has been very interesting this month because I was putting together a feature of book reviews about World War II titles. I had to read as fast as I could because I had so many lengthy titles to get through in just one month, but I managed it. Several of the books were about the war from the perspective of German citizens.
In "The Boy Who Dared" the author tells the story of a young man who did not believe the Nazi propoganda he was being fed. He found other sources of information and decided that it was up to him to share what he learned with his fellow Germans. What makes this book particularly powerful is that the story is based on the true story of a young man who dared to fight back against the Nazis.

"Traitor" is a work of fiction about a young girl who has the courage to hide a Russian prisoner of war. If she gets caught the girl, Anna, and her family will be severly punished. Another book which quite frankly blew me away was "The Dead and the Gone" by Susan Beth Pfeffer. This is the companion book to her first title "Life as We knew it" which also impressed me, and many other people, enormously. In both books the moon, after an asteroid collides with it, is brought into closer proximity to the Earth than before. As a result there are floods, earthquakes, and volcanic eruptions all around the world and life on Earth changes drastically. In the first book a young girl describes what happens after this catastrophic event. In the second book a young man living in New York tries to hold onto his family when chaos threatens to take over his life. I highly recommend these two books for any reader who is over the age of twelve.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Spring is here, no it's not, yes it is, no it's not...

Happy belated Earth Day everyone!

I have to tell you that here in Ashland, Oregon we have been having the strangest spring I have ever experienced. On April 11th I was up at the crack of dawn to go to Medford, a town just 20 minutes away from my town. I drove to the downtown area and then proceeded to collect my runner's packet for the Pear Blossom Run. Not being in the best of running shape, I had decided to do the 5K and not the 10 mile. The morning was freezing and I was quite numb as I set off with the other runners.

Later that day I sat on the side of the streets with hundreds of other people to watch the Pear Blossom Parade. It was quite a spectacle and my daughter Elise was particularly taken with the horses and the clowns. After being frozen earlier in the day I was then cooked as I watched the parade.

Since then we have had lovely warm days - and snow. And I don't mean a little snow either. We had stick-to-the ground snow for one day and several flurry filled days as well. On Saturday April 19th my husband and I walked into town to go and see a play at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. It was blizzard like outside and we arrived at the theatre covered with snow. I have to say that the production of "Coriolanus" that we saw was superb. I read and studied the play a long time ago and read about it again before I went to the performance. The actors swept me away and by the end of the play (which is very tragical) I was feeling very moved and spell bound. Anyone who loves Shakespeare's plays should try to come to Ashland to see the performances put on by this very special theatre company.

One the work front I have been preparing for the May issue of the Through the Looking Glass Book Review by reading a varied and wonderful collection of books about "Insects and their relatives." Even though I studied entomology in university many eons ago, I found myself learning all kinds of fascinating things about insects, spiders, and other many-legged animals. One book in particular struck me. "A Place for Butterflies" not only describes several lovely butterfly species but it also highlights the rocky future that many of these special creatures are facing. Often we think of endangered Giant Pandas, threatened elephants, and the status of other rare large animals. We forget that there are many smaller creatures which are endangered too, creatures which many of us can do something to help. By planting a garden filled with the kinds of plants that butterflies like, we can make a difference. Best of all this is an activity which children can enjoy. They will see the fruits of their labors when butterflies come to the flowering plants which they so carefully planted in the spring.

Happy Spring!

Monday, March 31, 2008

A new month begins

Happy Almost-April! I posted the new issue of Through the Looking Glass Review today and as per usual, I already feel that the new month is here. Despite the fact that the office was closed for a week for Sping Break, the new issue of Through the Looking Glass Book Review has seventy new reviews in it. These include some terrific titles for Arbor Day and Earth Day, and a hilarious book called "Framed." In this title by Frank Cottrell Boyce, a young boy discovers that the world of art has something to offer everyone. Art can effect people in the most extraordinary ways and the adventures and misadventures that the boy has as a result of his encounters with precious artworks are utterly delightful.

For Spring Break my family and I went skiing at Mt. Bachelor near Bend, OR. There was a lot of snow, and more fell while we were there. Not being used to skiing in powder I had trouble one day but the rest of time the conditions were fabulous. I know that a lot of people love powder, my husband does, but everytime I go into it I find my skiis going in opposite directions. Not long after I end up flat on my back or face first in a dift. No, groomed runs are a must for me.

Getting back home to Ashland on Friday March 28th was very hard. It was snowing so heavily that we crawled along the roads at a brisk 30 miles an hour - on average. We saw numerous cars lying on their sides or on their backs in the ditches. In addition, as we ambled along, we saw cars in front of us gracefully slide across the road. It was most unnerving. Thankfully we were able to move along without too much slipping, and six hours later got home - two hours later than expected. The storm was a firm reminder that Mother Nature is still very much in charge.


Monday, March 10, 2008

Was Leonardo da Vinci as crabby as all that?

I have just reviewed a work of historical fiction about Leonardo da Vinci and it really got me thinking. Was Leonardo as crabby as he was portrayed in the book? The book is told from the point of view of Leonardo's servant, a boy called Giacomo. I thought that Giacomo was a character which the author had made up but it turns out that he really existed. In his notebooks Leonardo complained about the boy many a time and oft but apparently one can tell that the painter was in fact very fond of Giacomo.

After reading about this I became determined to get a copy of the notebooks for myself. I really want to know what Leonardo was like. Reviews of the notebooks mention that one can get a very real sense of the inner Leonardo from his writings. I look forward to finding out if this is true or not.

This weekend was wonderful here in southern Oregon. The sun shone, it was warm, and the sky was an amazing blue. My family and I went and looked at a few houses - we are looking for a home of our own - and then we went to the local Chocolate Festival. The event was held in the lovely Ashland Springs Hotel and I don't think I have ever eaten so much chocolate in one go in my life! Milk chocolate candies infused with Lavena and with a caramel filling. Dark chocolate truffles with a raspberry center. Fresh pears dipped in warm melted chocolate. My seven year-old daughter, not surprisingly, began to feel a little sick after a while. My husband and I took a break from the chocolate at one point to taste some wine. It was perfect. Then we went back for a little more chocolate before we gave up eating, bought some treats, and walked home in the sun.
Ashland is definitely getting more tourist visitors these days. The warmer weather and the opening of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival has brought people here from all over. I cannot imagine what it is going to be like in the summer. We moved here in early September of last year so we have yet to see what Ashland is like in the spring and in the warmer months of May, June, July and August.
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