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review 2017-02-20 15:04
Saving the Ghost of the Mountain: An Expedition Among Snow Leopards in Mongolia - Sy Montgomery,Nic Bishop
Saving the Ghost of the Mountain: An Expedition Among Snow Leopards in Mongolia - Sy Montgomery,Nic Bishop

Maddeningly, I could not get my Fire to cooperate and let me write some kind of review yesterday.

 

Scientists in the Field Series

 

I've read two now, and on behalf of the parents of inquisitive children, let me say "Thank You! HMH Books for Young Readers, thank you so much for producing non-fiction books for children that have actual content. Mere words cannot express my gratitude. Here, take all my money and produce more of these fine volumes."

 

I can't be the only adult to rend my garments and gnash my teeth and having to read aloud the one hundredth book on say, pandas, that the child has managed to find, and that contains several lovely pictures and not enough facts or even theories to fill a photo caption. Three year olds may lack context, but they aren't stupid. Nor are they afraid of big words. Everyone has met the equivalent of the child who knows the correct names and pronunciations (I always had a hard time with these, the stress is never where I expect it to be) of every dinosaur ever cataloged. All that brainspace, and nothing to fill it up. But not this series. These books, bless 'em,these books tell the reader so much. This one gives a bit of personal history of the lead researcher on the project, what he studied in college, what kinds of jobs and graduate school lead to him being in expert on the snow leopards of Mongolia and how to count them, despite being one of the most difficult animals to locate in the wild.

 

There's a bit of background on the political and cultural history of Mongolia, a bit of the climate and ecology of the Gobi. there's a bit on language, on the practicality of gers (Mongolian yurts), and the popularity of the color orange in the painting of doors, which with the frames can be popped into the ger as it is set up. there's information on the physical demands of this particular field work, on the challenges of feeding a vegetarian writer in a region whose diet is almost entirely meat and dairy.

 

And then, of course, there is the science. In order to save an endangered species you have to be able to estimate the population and gauge the trend in population after an intervention. Tracking animals with radio collars is helpful, but first you have to safely capture the animals, and these big kitties are so perfectly camouflaged it is possible to be within two feet of one with a tracking collar and still not see it.

 

I'll stop now. I think I've made it clear how enjoyable and informative the books in this series are. I haven't managed to talk anyone in the family into starting either of these yet, but my ceaseless yammering will wear down their resistance. Perhaps you are not a fan of books for younger readers, or you're not interested in the science of [insert fascinating topic here]. Even so, I ask you to keep them in mind. Make sure the youngest people of your acquaintance have a copy that suits their particular interests. Keep them in mind as an introduction to a topic that is more entertaining and encompassing than the average Wiki, but short enough to read in a couple of hours. Or just check one out of the library to look at the pretty pictures (the photography meets the same high standards as the text, and the back matter) and read the captions, that'll teach you enough to sound well informed at the next cocktail party [I've never actually attended a cocktail party, possibly they do not exist outside of fiction. Feel free to substitute the making-conversation-with-strangers-or-nearly scenario that works best for you.]

 

If you aren't in the habit of reading nonfiction for children, but you've read this gushing review anyway, I thank you. If you didn't read the review, but somehow found this bit at the end, I'll put it in this perspective: if I graded books on a scale, all the others would have to be marked down from five stars to one.

 

Library copy

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photo 2017-02-12 15:23
@ThePoke

Nailed it!

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review 2017-02-12 02:56
Precious Papillon
Papillon, Book 1 The Very Fluffy Kitty, Papillon - A.N. Kang

The Very Fluffy Kitty Papillon by A.N. Kang tells the fanciful tail of Papillon, the kitty who is so fluffy that he floats away.  His loving owner, Miss Tilly, is constantly worried that Papillon will float away and be lost forever.  She tries to weigh him down by feeding him fattening foods.  Nothing worked...until she noticed the bowl that had once contained spaghetti setting on his head.

This gives Miss Tilly a wonderful idea.  She will make clothes for Papillon!  Miss Tilly starts with a few simple outfits, but soon gets carried away with intricate costumes.  One day, Papillon decides that he has had enough of wearing clothes.  Miss Tilly tried her best to reason with him without success.

Feeling defeated, Miss Tilly heads to the market.  Papillon is enjoying his high floating freedom when he notices a bird sitting on the window sill.  He floats over to have a look...and follows the bird right out the window!

Papillon did his best to follow his new feathered friend, but he soon finds himself lost.  Will Papillon ever be able to find his way back to Miss Tilly?

I absolutely loved this story!  A.N. Kang's illustrations are simplistic but adorably irresistible.  My favorite set of illustrations can be found on page 10.  Papillon looks ridiculously cute in his numerous costumes.  The shark costume is hilarious!  The expression on Papillon's face reminds me of Grumpy Cat.

I also like how Kang subtly introduces the reader to Papillon's new friend from the beginning of the story.  If the reader looks carefully, he/she will find this friend on every other page in the book.  This would make an excellent discovery game for children.

This is a wonderful story for children of all ages.  I believe that old and young alike will delight in the fun and humorous illustrations.    

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review 2017-02-12 01:38
Otters in Space by Mary E. Lowd
Otters In Space: The Search for Cat Havana - Doc Marcus,Mary E Lowd

This is set sometime in the future. Humans have long since abandoned Earth. The dogs and cats they left behind eventually attained sentience and built their own societies in and around humanity’s ruins. They have jobs, government, cars, phones - basically, their lives look a lot like ours today.

Unfortunately for cats, this is largely a dog’s world. Cats are considered second-class citizens and have to struggle to get decent-paying jobs. Kipper, the book’s main character, doesn’t really expect that things will ever get better, but she tries to support her sister Petra’s political aspirations anyway. Then Kipper and Petra learn about a possible secret cat utopia in Ecuador, which they dub “Cat Havana” (never mind that Havana isn’t in Ecuador). After Petra suddenly disappears, apparently to go see Cat Havana for herself, Kipper decides to join her.

I bought this in an effort to scratch my post-Zootopia itch. The sci-fi aspects mentioned on the product page intrigued me, and it had several positive reviews, but the one negative review I came across made me wary. Still, it was cheap, so I bought it anyway.

The world-building was intriguing, but also sloppy and filled with holes. I found it difficult to believe that every last human had chosen to leave Earth behind, or that this would even be possible (imagine how much time and money it would have taken, and how many spaceships). How did the various animal species become sentient? Which species were sentient? Early on, I assumed that only cats, dogs, and otters were sentient. Dogs and cats lived on Earth, and otters had managed to establish themselves in space. However, once Kipper finally made it to the space station, there were mentions of “immigrant squirrels” and even a chef who happened to be an octopus. Also, since sentience hadn’t changed species’ sizes (most dogs towered over cats), I found myself wondering if their lifespans were the same too.

Despite my issues with it, I enjoyed the world of this book. There were indications that cat and dog interactions could be fairly complex, I was very intrigued by the brief description of octopus society, and I wanted to know more about otter life on the space station. The otter space ship that Kipper ended up on was also pretty cool.

That said, this book could have used a better editor. Although I didn’t notice any misspellings, I did spot several misused apostrophes and commas, as well as a few incorrect phrases. A few examples:

“One of the Chihuahua's from Kipper's team came up to her and shook her paws, speaking a few indecipherable words.” (53)

“Chihuahua’s” shouldn’t have an apostrophe.

“However, the heart of the platform was the open, landing area in the center for the climbers -- the elevator cars.” (60)

There shouldn't be a comma between "open" and "landing."

“They looked at her, and they held their gaze longer than she expected.” (93)

I’m pretty sure that should be “they held her gaze.”

There were also lots of instances of stuff that should have been streamlined prior to publication. Here’s a good example:

“There were otters occupying some of the other beds, but none of them had noticed her yet. Well, she was sure they knew she was there. But none of them had noticed she was awake.” (111)

Why not just say “but none of them had noticed she was awake yet” and do away with the rest?

The story’s pacing wasn't very good, and Kipper’s shifting and easy-to-forget goals probably didn’t help. Petra was supposedly the impetuous one, and yet Kipper was the one who decided to go all the way to Ecuador with only a single note as evidence that Petra had gone there. She soon realized that Petra probably hadn’t made it to Ecuador yet but went into space anyway, even though her primary goal had been finding her sister. Once she was on the space station, her goal shifted to finding Cat Havana, even though that potentially meant she’d never see her brother and sister again.

There was too much that didn’t make sense. Although Trudith was one of my favorite characters (second only to Emily the octopus), it boggled my mind that anyone thought it was a good idea to hire a protective dog like her to kill somebody, especially considering her tendency to follow anyone’s firmly stated orders. Then there was the enormous plot hole involving the note that inspired Kipper to go to Ecuador in the first place. I suppose it might have been part of the setup for the sequel, except, if that had been the case, I’d have expected Kipper to wonder about that detail more.

All in all, this turned out to be kind of disappointing. I have a couple of the author’s other works on my Nook and am still hopeful that one of them might be better, but it’ll probably be a while before I give them a shot.

 

Rating Note:

 

If it hadn't been for the plot hole introduced at the very end of the book, I might have given this 2 stars. There was something endearing about the world and characters, despite the story's many, many issues.

 

(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)

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text 2017-02-10 00:38
Party Animal - the morning after...

Carlito likes to go a little hard at the 'nip sometimes...

(His head is in the catnip, but appropriately enough the rest of him is passed out in the hedgerow.)

 

Dude, it's all good; I'm not driving....

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