Sunday, September 25, 2011

Lily's Favorite Books ages newborn to one

Just like I made the decision last year to track my books, I decided I should keep a book log for Lily.  I write down the names and authors of all the books we read to hear.  So far, she's listened to 240 books!  I'm sure there are more that I forgot to record. 

I'm going to write about her favorite books from each year, hoping that it will help those of you reading with children of the same age!

By far, her favorite books were these two from DK Publishing - Baby Colors and Count with Me.  She LOVED looking at the pictures of babies (and particularly loved the little boy on the cover of Baby Colors!). She read and/or looked at these books into her first year.

Another favorite was Baby Cakes by Karma Wilson.  Jane Pelletier gave this to Lily as a gift, and we loved the rhythm of the story along with the illustrations.  This is one we still read occasionally.

Another gift from Jane, Mommy Loves Me was great with the photographs!

Lily loved the Karen Katz books - Shake It Up Baby, Where is Baby's Belly Button, Peek-A-Baby, Where is Baby's Valentine, Where is Baby's Easter Egg.  This one was my favorite, with a rattle in the spine.

Tails was a gift from the Holdman girls at Lily's baby shower.  I probably should have waited until she was a little older, as she played pretty hard with this book and we lost a number of the tails!  However, it was worth it!  We also liked One Yellow Lion by Matthew van Fleet.

Finally, and still one of our favorites, is Fifteen Animals by Sandra Boynton.  The song from this book is available for a free download when you buy the book and is also on our all-time favorite CD, Philadelphia Chickens by Sandra Boynton.

EVERY CHILD NEEDS THIS CD!  The songs are catchy, the rhythms are great, and many of the songs just make you want to dance.  Lily has loved it since birth.

Truth is Stranger than Fiction

Our motto at the office is, "You can't make this shit up."  We even talked about having shirts printed!  For years, we've believed we could write stories of the things our CASA families have done and could pass them off as fiction, because no one would believe they were true!

The Man in the Rockefeller Suit could be one of the stories we tell in our office.  Mark Seal interviewed more than 200 people who knew Clark Rockefeller in his various locations and identities.  The ultimate con man, Rockefeller (originally Christian Karl Gerhartsreiter and then many other names) was constantly changing his identity as he moved up the social ladder.

This book was absolutely fascinating - I didn't want to put it down.  It begins with Rockefeller's kidnapping of his own daugther during a supervised visit and culminates with a court hearing for that charge.  His wife, an incredibly successful business woman, describes the typical domestic violence relationship dominated by power and control.  Her realization that her husband wasn't who he claimed to be and the courage it took her to leave a dangerous man was the highlight of the book for me. 

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Vacation Reading

While walking a half-marathon at the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer was the purpose of my recent trip to Santa Barbara, I also had some time to relax and read!  Here are the four books I read, all of which were worth reading!

I started with The Flamenco Academy by Sarah Bird, having recently read and enjoyed her newest book, The Gap Year.  While this was the fictional account of a woman who as a senior in high school fell in love with a Flamenco guitarist, which changed the course of her life, I particularly enjoyed it for the lesson on Flamenco and the Gypsy culture.  I learned about Spanish Gypsies, who created Flamenco as a means of expressing their frustration and grief.  The guiding principle for Flamenco is "Dame la verdad" ("Give me the truth), meaning the dance should reflect what is most true in your life or in your heart. 

Next I read Lisa See's Shanghai Girls, which was published a couple of years ago.  Much like The Flamenco Academy, I enjoyed learning about China in the 1930s, the second Sino-Japanese war, immigration at Angel Island off the coast of San Francisco, and the Chinese immigrant community in California in the mid-20th century.  At the start of the book, sisters Pearl and May are "beautiful girls," meaning they model for painters.  Their family is financially sound, and Pearl has graduated from college.  However, their father owes a significant amount of gambling debts to a local gang, and he trades his daughters for his debt, arranging marriages to the sons of a Chinese immigrant in America.  The girls refuse to board the ship to America, and in doing so, become stuck in Shanghai at the start of the Japanese invasion of China and are caught in the middle of a war.  They eventually make it onto a boat, but are detained for months at Angel Island.  Will they ever be happy in their arranged marriages?  This was by far my favorite of the four books I read on my trip.

I next read Ann Patchett's highly acclaimed book State of Wonder about drug exploration in the Brazilian rain forest.  When Marina's lab partner fails to return from a trip to visit their company's researcher in the rain forest, Marina must make the trip to determine what happened to him and to see what progress is being made on a fertility drug.  After many road blocks, she finally makes into the heart of the rain forest and learns much about herself.  I have to say I have no desire to go to Brazil after reading this book!  Biting bugs galore, giant poisonous snakes, and high humidity aren't my idea of a good time.  However, the book was interesting if not completely worth the hype.

Finally, I read the first book in Alexander McCall Smith's latest series, Corduroy Mansions about people living in three flats in a converted mansion in London.  Much like his series, 44 Scotland Street, the characters are quirky and have a number of interesting interactions throughout the book.  My favorite character in this book was Freddie de la Hay, the vegetarian dog who comes to live with the main character, William, in the hopes that Williams' dog-hating adult son Eddie will move out of the flat.  Much like 44 Scotland Street, this book was published daily in the Daily Telegraph by chapter over 100 days.  The second book in the series has just been released, and I'm on my way to the library tomorrow to check it out! 

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Zoo Story: Life in the Garden of Captivity

I read a review of this book in The Manhattan Mercury and checked it out from the public library.  I've always had mixed feelings about zoos.  Certainly in their current incarnation, most zoos are designed for maximum space and stimulation for the animals and the majority of the animals in zoos were bred in captivity rather than being captured in the wild.  And accredited zoos (like our own Sunset Zoo) are active participants in conservation education and breeding programs to help maintain genetic diversity for endangered animals.  However, I have always felt sad for the animals kept in captivity and on display. 

Thomas French is a reporter in Florida who wrote a series of articles on the Tampa Zoo, which he used to write this book.  His in-depth look at the animals in the zoo (including their life histories) along with the humans who choose to work daily with these animals is fascinating.  The politics of zoos is also examined, particularly through the lens of the overambitious director of the Tampa zoo. 

This book made me cry more than once for the animals and their keepers.  If you love animals and nature, this book is well worth your time.