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Recommendations for Friday, January 24, 2014

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

Link to this review in the form of a comic strip by billbarnes tagged humorscience fiction

Unshelved strip for 1/24/2014

@bookblrb: Arthur Dent's best friend outs himself as an alien and saves them from the end of the world. Then things gets weird.

Better Than Good Hair: The Curly Girl Guide to Healthy, Gorgeous Natural Hair! by Nikki Walton

Link to this review by saracole tagged nonfiction

Written by blogger Nikki Walton, this book aims to help black women embrace their natural hair by understanding its textures and needs including how to care for it, style it, and confidently experiment with natural styles. It walks through the stages of natural hair starting with a discussion of the whys and hows of cutting off chemically relaxed hair (a.k.a "the big chop"), the fashion choices (both accessories and attitude) to rock the TWA (teeny weenie afro), and finishes up with "All Grown Up - living with long hair." There are helpful sidebars full of homemade hair care recipes, definitions, and personal testimonies.

Why I picked it up: As a white mama trying to master the art of caring for my African American girl's curls, I'm forever on the look out for great advice on natural black hair care. The subtitle of this book immediately caught my attention.

Why I finished it: Instead of being another dry treatise on how to keep kinky hair from drying out, the book is full of personality and uses funny and entertaining stories that get the point across.  Nikki's carefully spelled out personal hair routines were enlightening -- I always do better with a checklist to start with that I can customize later as needed. Hugely helpful to me and my girl are the large number of styles, complete with pictures and directions.

It's perfect for: What I wasn't expecting when I started the book was great insight on the negative cultural messages I get about my own vaguely curly European hair. It made me reflect on when my hairdresser flat ironed my hair after a cut and called me his lovely "Cinderella." He insinuated that by turning my "messy" waves into perfectly straight hair he had suddenly turned me into a beautiful woman. So I would give it to my friend Ann, who always struggled with her super curly red hair in high school. The book would show her she wasn't alone in the hair world and connect her to support and ideas from a fellow "curlfriend."

@bookblrb: Blogger Nikki Walton helps black women embrace their natural hair.

Raising Steam by Terry Pratchett

Steam is rising over Discworld, driven by Mister Simnel, the man with a flat cap and a sliding rule. He has produced a great clanging monster of a machine that harnesses the power of all of the elements-earth, air, fire, and water-and it's soon drawing astonished crowds.

To the consternation of Ankh-Morpork's formidable Patrician, Lord Vetinari, no one is in charge of this new invention. This needs to be rectified, and who better than the man he has already appointed master of the Post Office, the Mint, and the Royal Bank: Moist von Lipwig. Moist is not a man who enjoys hard work-unless it is dependent on words, which are not very heavy and don't always need greasing. He does enjoy being alive, however, which makes a new job offer from Vetinari hard to refuse.

Moist will have to grapple with gallons of grease, goblins, a fat controller with a history of throwing employees down the stairs, and some very angry dwarfs if he's going to stop it all from going off the rails...

Request a print galley while supplies last!

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Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain

Link to this review by craigseasholes tagged nonfiction

An articulate introvert explores our cultural bias towards extroversion and the value of those who listen more and speak less.  

Why I picked it up: I’ve got a quiet teenage son. I dodge chatty social situations. I often catch myself singing, "When I've got nothing to say, my lips are sealed."

Why I finished it: Book-thumpingly correct characterizations described students like my son, who has always preferred listening to speaking. Cain shows how Rosa Parks’ quiet strength complemented MLK’s rhetorical talent and makes the point that the world needs both.

Successful introverts have to learn to function in "a world that can't stop talking." Cain describes strategies for acting extroverted as necessary, including making sure to find a restorative niche for recovering from public speaking and socializing. The final section explains how parents and teachers can help quiet kids thrive in highly interactive, social school environments: "Don't think of introversion as something that needs to be cured...praise quiet kids for their interests and encourage them to find like-minded friends...and don't seat quiet kids in 'high-interaction' areas of the classroom."

It's perfect for: Shannon and John, a fifth grade teaching team in my open-concept school who are willing to adjust their lessons to meet the needs of the forty students in their classroom. Since thirty to fifty percent of their students are introverts, they need to find ways to help then unlock the power of quiet.

@bookblrb: An exploration of the bias towards extroversion and the value of introverts.

Starling by Sage Stossel

Link to this review by geneambaum tagged graphic novelsuperhero

Amy Sturgess is negative, self-defeating, and on Xanax. She works as a marketer and has no social life. She’s always running out of meetings and on her friends. She tells everyone it’s because she has IBS, but she’s actually the superhero know as Starling, and she’s taking off to use her powers to save people. But Starling is a bit of a lackluster hero: her hair is a mess, she often forgets parts of her uniform, and she even lets criminals go if she feels sorry for them. There’s also trouble in other parts of her life: a creepy coworker is sabotaging her eReader campaign, her brother is in trouble with drugs, and her ex-boyfriend seems more interested in Amy than in his fiancée.

Why I picked it up: I’m a huge fan of superhero graphic novels, but most of them are unreadable. So when I see something this unusual looking (no muscled, bulging heroes, no slick, overly-realistic art and coloring), I give it a shot.

Why I finished it: The cartoony, hand-colored art and pages that aren’t overfilled with words made this an easy going, pleasant read. And I loved it when, after Starling joins the all-volunteer Vigilante Justice Association and rejects one revealing costume after another, she asks, “Who’s your costume designer? A thirteen-year-old boy?” (Yes.)

Readalikes: Kurt Busiek’s Life in the Big City, the first volume of his Astro City series. It’s about a town full of archetypal superheroes whose duties have a serious impact on their civilian lives. And it reminds me of James Robinson’s masterpiece, Starman, about a reluctant hero taking on the job after his father retires and his brother is killed. His life is a mess but that doesn’t stop him from doing what’s right.

@bookblrb: Amy sacrifices her social and professional life to help people as a lackluster superhero.

Southern Cross: Annuit Coeptis by Dorvall, illustrated by: Philip Renne

What if Robert E. Lee had won at Gettysburg?

What if the Confederacy had won the war?

What if slavery hadn’t been inevitable in the South?

Every event has its place in history. If even the smallest detail is altered, America as we know it will unravel to reveal a strange and foreign alternate reality.

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Dancers Among Us by Jordan Matter

Link to this review by jana tagged artnonfiction

Photographs of dancers in everyday situations exploring different words such as play, grief, and life. “Blowing in the Wind” features a dancer flying a kite on a sandy beach. The kite is soaring, and the dancer is jumping five feet off the ground, his back so arched that his head is almost touching his toes, creating an illusion that he is flying up in the sky with the kite. This photo is an expression of play. “Condemned” captures grief. A dancer is wedged between two columns, her feet pushing on one with her back on the other, in front of a house with no roof and a notice of condemnation. Her hands cover her face, creating a solemn mood.

Why I picked it up: It features pictures of several of my friends!

Why I finished it: Several photos have information on how long the shoot took and how many pictures were taken before they got what they wanted. Dance always has a huge back story that no one but the dancers gets to see. The process is the most fascinating and difficult part. One photo was supposed to show a beautiful sunset, but instead mother nature intervened: it started pouring. Jordan hesitated, but the dancer did not. She went out in the rain in a bright yellow dress, arched her back, and kicked a leg to the sky.

It's perfect for: My mom would appreciate the athleticism of the dancers. This book would inspire her and make her smile. And then she would say that I would have made all the pictures look better if I’d been in them.

@bookblrb: Photos of dancers in everyday settings that explore different moods and activities.

Erec Rex: The Dragon's Eye by Kaza Kingsley

Link to this review by gigi tagged coming of agefantasy

Erec Rex lives with his adopted mother and siblings in Upper Earth (our world). One day his mother disappears, and there is a babysitter they don’t know. She will not let anyone leave and won’t say where their mom is. Erec escapes and sets out to find his mother. He meets a girl named Bethany who is being forced to work at her uncle’s newsstand. Erec helps Bethany escape, and they go through a secret (possibly magical) underground tunnel that Bethany saw Erec’s mother enter. They find a subway station-like place full of flying people using magical doors that transport them wherever they want to go.  There they meet two boys, Oscar and Jack, who tell Bethany and Erec about competitions that will determine the new kings and queens of several kingdoms. Erec and Bethany decide to join the competitions, even though they are from Upper Earth, because winning might help him find his mom.

Why I picked it up: My dad asked me if I wanted to read it. The back talked about Erec going to a hidden world, and that sounded like a cool story.

Why I finished it: I wanted to see if Erec became King of one of the Kingdoms of Keepers, and learn whether or not he found his mom.

It's perfect for: Parker, because there’s a competition called MONSTER, which has a lot of questions about how to defeat different kinds of monsters. Parker likes mythological creatures, so I know she’ll be able to answer the questions about a hydra, a minotaur, and a cyclops.

@bookblrb: Erec travels into a magic, underground kingdom to find his mother.

The Rules by Stacey Kade

Link to this review by rose tagged coming of agescience fiction

Ariane Tucker, a half-human/half-extraterrestrial hybrid with GTX-F-107 tattooed on her shoulder, escaped from a lab when she was eight with Mark Tucker’s help. Since then, she’s pretended to be Mark’s daughter and followed five rules to help her hide by blending in.

  1. Never trust anyone
  2. Remember they are always searching
  3. Don’t get involved
  4. Keep your head down
  5. Don’t fall in love

It’s pretty easy to follow the rules until junior year in high school. Jenna is Ariane’s only friend, and queen bee Rachel Jacobs decides she’s a great target. When Ariane stands up to Rachel, she decides to enlist the help of Zane Bradshaw, the police chief’s son, to get back at Ariane. Zane’s life isn’t that great, with a mom that’s gone, a brother’s shadow to live in, and a dad whom he can never please. Rachel’s plan is simple: Zane will ask Ariane out and then dump her publicly at one of Rachel’s parties. But Zane wants to get back at Rachel, so he plans to tell Ariane what’s going on, pretend to date her, and then just shake hands and walk away. Ariane takes some convincing, but after another cruel prank is played on Jenna, she’s in. After they discover they have a lot in common, though, the relationship starts to feel real. And when things get out of hand at Rachel’s party, Ariane accidentally reveals her secret.

Why I picked it up: Combination of extraterrestrial and human DNA? Count me in! Plus the rules on the back cover seemed mysterious, and I think I’d have a hard time following them since they’re pretty restricting.

Why I finished it: It was so cute seeing Zane and Ariane’s pretended affection turn real! I had to see if he found out her being not human, and if he did, what his reaction would be.

It's perfect for: My sister Ruth, who’s into science fiction. She would like Ariane’s telekinesis and how Ariane uses it to get back at Rachel.

@bookblrb: Ariane, a half-alien hybrid, does her best to blend in to human society.

Stick Man's Really Bad Day by Steve Mockus

Link to this review by ang tagged humorpicture book

Stick Man wakes up, showers, has a cup of coffee. He walks the dog. It seems like an ordinary day until a terrible accident sets off a string of mishaps. Danger lurks everywhere. Animal attacks, natural disasters, and road hazards plague his morning commute. At his factory job, he falls -- quite literally -- into a series of industrial accidents. The subway is filled with peril. His kitchen is extremely flammable. Danger is lurking everywhere and Stick Man stumbles right into the middle of it. Using images taken from real signs, this wordless picture book recounts the adventures of Stick Man as he struggles to survive one hilariously disaster-wrought day.

Why I picked it up: Like the caution signs it’s modeled after, the bold yellow-and-black cover is hard to ignore.

Why I finished it: I had to know if this really bad day would have a happy ending. Specifically, I wanted to know if he’d get the girl. You know the one, with the triangular dress and perfectly round head, who is usually hanging on the outside of the ladies’ restroom. They seemed made for each other.

It's perfect for: Anyone who can’t help but snicker at a good pratfall or kick to the crotch, or who giggled madly as Charlie Chaplin plunged headlong into the gears in Modern Times. When Stick Man tumbles from a ladder, flies through the air after lodging his front tire in rut, or forgets to mind the subway gap, this is physical comedy at its best.

@bookblrb: Danger lurks everywhere for Stick Man (the guy who poses on all the yellow warning signs).

Anton and the Battle by Ole Könnecke

Link to this review by silver tagged picture book

Anton and Luke are friends. They love to show off who is stronger.

“I can carry 3 logs.” “Bah, I can carry a whole piano.”

Yet they get scared when a tiny dog wants to play with them.

Why I picked it up: The ridiculous battle scene on the cover, with Anton swinging a cello while Luke is holding a cow by the tail, about to toss it at Anton.

Why I finished it: In my experience, when girls start playing house boys start trying to master the art of boasting. This book reminded me of little boys I’ve known, and the whole time I was reading it there was a big smile on my face.

It's perfect for: My friend René, a mother of four boys under six. On those days when she can't stand their behavior, I hope she can open this book and remind herself that whatever they’re doing is probably funny, too.

@bookblrb: Anton and Luke show off and argue about who is stronger.

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