Finding Wonders

Finding Wonders by Jeannine Harris is a fictional children’s book based on three real girls, Maria Sibylla Merian, Mary Anning, and Maria Mitchell, who made scientific contributions. Told with poems, each girl’s story begins with her childhood. Each girl learned to look beyond what other people took for granted or mistrusted. Each girl overcame the biases and challenges of her time for the sake of learning. These stories are an inspiration to anyone who has ever wanted to try something new despite the people around them. These girls were told they could not, should not, and would not, but they did anyway.

Genre: Children’s historical fiction

Setting: 1600s Germany, Amsterdam, and Suriname, 1800s England, 1800s Massachusetts

Number of pages: 195

Objectionable content? Several characters die, both adults and children, and religion is portrayed in a negative manner in some parts of the book.

Can children read this? Yes. This book is well-suited for elementary school children and up.

Themes: Learning, independent women, science, curiosity, restrictions

Rating: Five stars

Miss Moore Thought Otherwise

Miss Moore Thought Otherwise by Jan Pinborough is a true children’s story about one of the first children’s librarians. Anne Moore grew up in a time where many libraries were not free, and they were certainly not meant for children. Usually, children were not even allowed inside, especially girls. But Miss Moore thought otherwise.

Anne Carroll Moore was an independent thinker ever since she was a child. While other girls stayed inside and sewed, Anne was outside sledding on the hills. When other girls got married, Anne was working in her father’s office, learning how to be a lawyer. When other women stayed home, Anne moved to New York City, went to college, and got a job in a library.

Anne Moore changed the ways in which libraries viewed children. Under her supervision, libraries no longer demanded silence from patrons, children were allowed to take books home, child-sized furniture was built, more children’s books were published, rooms became more colorful, and people were brought in to do children’s programming. Libraries all around the world followed her example, all because she always looked at things differently.

Genre: Children’s non-fiction

Setting: Maine and New York in the late 1800s-early 1900s

Number of pages: 40

Themes: History of children’s libraries, and independent women

Objectionable content? None.

Can children read this? Yes. This book is appropriate for all ages. There are interesting things for the older kids to read, and the younger kids will enjoy the beautiful pictures.

Who would like this? Anyone who is interested in how children’s libraries developed into their current focus on library users, and anyone who enjoys learning about strong women.

Rating: Five stars

Brief Histories of Everyday Objects

Brief Histories of Everyday Objects by Andy Warner is a hilarious non-fiction graphic novel that describes how many of the items that we take for granted have interesting, unusual, and sometimes downright silly origins. The author guessed when it came down to deciding what people looked like and what they said (unless they were quoted), but the facts are all true! Once you read this book, you will never look at the things you use on a daily basis in the same way again. The next time you go to a party, you’ll be able to tell people about the story behind the pull tabs on their soda cans.

Did you know that the woman who invented flat-bottomed paper grocery bags had to fight for her right to the patent when a man tried to steal it? She became the first woman to win a patent lawsuit.

Did you know that Earl Tupper invented Tupperware, but Brownie Wise made it sell? In fact, she was so successful that she became the face of the product. This greatly angered Mr. Tupper, so he fired her, sold the company, and purchased an island where he lived for the rest of his life.

Did you know that postcards were the results of an elaborate prank?

Did you know that roller skates were first invented in 1760 when John Joseph Merlin, a prolific inventor, built a pair so he could show off at a masquerade?

Genre: Non-fiction graphic novel

Setting: All over the world, throughout different times

Is this good for a book club? Only if the book club is interested in discussing previously unknown facts regarding everyday things.

How long is the book? 206 pages

Objectionable content? Barely. There are some references to bathing, bras, excrement, and violence, but there is nothing explicit. There are some illustrations of women wearing sports bras.

Can children read this? The humor and information are enjoyable for all ages, as long as they have a good vocabulary.

Who would like this? Anyone with a good sense of humor and a good appreciation for learning about how everyday objects were created.

Rating: Five stars

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Quick Read: Mozart: A Life

Mozart: A Life by Paul Johnson is a short and simple biography of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. It is only five chapters long! However, don’t let that fool you into thinking that it doesn’t provide a decent account of his life and music. It describes Mozart in a way that is easy to understand by all. The author also gives the reader new insights into information about his life, and a good understanding both of what his music is about and just how prolific a writer he was. I would have preferred it if this book had been longer and more detailed, but it works well with its simple approach.

Did you know that Mozart wrote over 600 pieces of music in his lifetime? This is especially impressive since he only lived for 35 years.

Did you know that Mozart had a brief a relationship with his wife’s sister?

Did you know that Mozart was literally kicked in the rear by one of his employers when he was fired?

Genre: Biography

Setting: Different parts of Europe from 1756-1791

Is this good for a book club? Yes, if the book club is interested in biographies, music, or just a quick read.

Objectionable content? Yes, but it is not detailed. Religion, sex, violence, incest, and death are referenced, but nothing is explicitly described.

Can children read this? Yes, if they have interest in Mozart and a good vocabulary regarding history and music. Teenagers would be the most likely to be interested.

Who would like this? Anyone who is interested in Mozart and his music. It is also good for people who like quick and interesting reads.

Number of pages: 164

Rating: Four stars

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All’s Faire in Fall

bristol-Renaissance-FaireFall is here again, and with it comes Fair season – Church Fairs, Grange Fairs, State Fairs, Harvest Festivals, and perhaps the most fun of all – The Renaissance Faire.
Renaissance Faires are  newer than you think. The first official “Renaissance Faire” traces back to Los Angeles in 1963, when a school teacher named Phyllis Patterson put one on for a weekend fundraiser for radio station KPFK, and more than 8,000 people showed up. A fall staple was born (because, let’s face it, NO ONE wants to be buried under that many yards of wool, satin, and leather in the middle of July).

Why the Renaissance? Why not Roman Bacchanalias with chariot races? Why not the 1363839072Dark Ages? Why not Pompeiian pageants? Celebrating the gruesome deaths of a city of people might be just a tad morbid. The Dark Ages were – well, Dark. We don’t know much about them, because following the fall of Rome civilization was illiterate, spread out, and little was going on beyond warfare and survival. And Rome? Rome certainly had a lot going for it, but not many speak Latin anymore, and togas, while simple and fun for frat parties, just don’t have the suave flair of swashbuckling boots, rapiers, and villains’ pointed beards and mustaches. The Renaissance has far more possibilities.

Robin-Hood-Men-In-Tights-dracula-and-robin-hood-in-tights-and-loving-it-22205932-320-240Rising up out of the depths of the Black Plague, the Renaissance means, literally, a rebirth. Disenchanted with a church that did not save them from the plague, men turned to science to keep them safe, resulting in great advancements in learning, science, art, music, and warfare. Stretching from 1300 to 1600, the Renaissance saw the rise of DaVinci, of Galileo, Columbus, Martin Luther, the printing press, Magellan, Henry VIII, William Harvey,  the advent of gunpowder, muskets, and the waning of armor and swords. Most Renaissance Faires throw in the likes of Robin Hood (earliest tales date to 1377), and sometimes evejeffpiraten King Arthur, who, although Malory’s history of Le Morte D’Artur is published in 1470, the story from which The Once and Future King is taken,  is believed to have lived, if he’s not merely legend, sometime between 600 and 800. Herein lie the tales of valor, not long before the Three Musketeers, the tales of actual pirates Barbossa and William Kyd, of Dutch corsairs and privateers, and let’s not forget Shakespeare (though Shakespeare’s plays, though written and performed around 1600, were often taken from history much older: King MacBeth actually lived in the 1000’s). That’s a lot of romanticized history to be able to play with, a lot of possibilities for actors to delve into. Hence Renaissance Faires are full of LARPers (live-action role players) and SCA (Society for Creative Anachronism, hard-core medieval recreationists) members running about. Your inner Dragon Master can run amok, and no one will ever know.

unspecifiedSo pull on your hose, strap on your broadsword, lace your corset, and get ready for an imaginative adventure back in time, and if you’re not careful, you just might learn something. Faires can offer a diversity of activities such as Birds of Prey shows, sword forging, glass blowing, theater, jousting, live chess tournaments, musicians, and more, as well as authentic foods, drink, clothing, crafts, and entertainments.  Check out the Connecticut Renaissance Faire, or if you like a drive, try the larger ones like King Richard’s Faire in Massachusetts, or my favorite, The New York Renaissance Faire in Tuxedo, New York. They’re worth the trip!  For a more in-depth experience, check these great books out as well: