Thursday, March 17, 2016

Bartholomew Quill: Hanson / Arnim

Bartholomew Quill: A Crow's Quest to Know Who's Who —and to know what species he belongs to, too. Alternate subtitle reads, A Crow Learns to Tell Who's Who in the Animal World.

Rhyming poetry by Thor Hanson would enchant any reader of any age and be easy to memorize; hand-drawn illustrations from Dana Arnim capture a rather subdued, natural sensibility. In my lifetime I've had only two general biology classes: one in HS and one at university, so I don't know much, but I understand at least some critters have evolved an ability of species recognition that means they know one when of "their own kind" faces them. The first sentence sets the overall scene as it tells us:

"Bartholomew Quill was a crow long ago, when all of the world was new,"

so possibly this book about Bartholomew Quill the Crow tells us a little about the processes of both self-recognition and other-recognition? This could lead to rich discussions about physical traits and behavioral tendencies of household pets, birds on the feeder, critters at the zoo, human classmates and assorted family members.

Cover of the bound book features the exact same artwork and text as the dust jacket, something that's not always the case. I love that both front and back endpapers feature small sketches of all the critters in the book.

"Get More Out Of This Book" includes ideas for Group Discussion, Group Activities, and Independent Activities. You also can get a Teacher's Guide.

my Amazon review: Bart Quill the Crow

Saturday, October 24, 2015

The New Shingled House

The New Shingled House: Ike Kligerman Barkley on Amazon

the new shingled house book coverArchitects John Ike, Thomas A. Kligerman, and Joel Barkley have been partners for twenty-five years.

I'm a graphic designer with an interest in houses, a theologian with a passion for their homemaking implications, so I ordered The New Shingled House―thanks, Amazon Vine! I've long majorly been about The City and Cities, too, and this book enhances my collection of quality printed urban books and city literature. However, the fourteen dwelling places in The New Shingled House are all around everywhere across the vast expanse of the continental USA, and not exclusively in cities. To cite the book description, "the shingled house can suggest the beach, the countryside, the mountains, and even the city."

The 10.3" x 12.3" format, (physically very) heavyweight book is packed full of full-color, mostly full page photographs of interiors and exteriors. It also provides descriptions, commentary, and floor plans. The grand scale of these places impresses me, but possibly part of that impression comes from the perspective of the photographer's camera? The often subtle, usually understated natural colors, materials and textures in every design and production detail of these houses is my idea of elegance! These are models I'd love to draw on and change around to the needs of my own environment.

From any viewpoint, what a wonderfully inspiring resource for designing your own rooms, offices, studios, or almost any work place or living space. Summing up this book and the houses in the book? Fabulous, simply fabulous!

my amazon review: stunning, opulent, brilliant

Friday, July 10, 2015

The Princess and the Pony

The Princess and the Pony by Kate Beaton on Amazon

princes and the pony cover princess and the pony back

Soft sweaters, not sharp swords, shields, and spears. Let's help create a less scary world, so please, make love, not war! "Cute Overload" is radical understatement to describe this kids' book by Kate Beaton. As a theologian I tend to interpret almost everything through the lenses of scripture and theology, but a friend, parent, or teacher wouldn't need to have a seriously philosophical or theological worldview to read The Princess and the Pony with the kids in their care and point out how softness, gentleness, love, and cozy sweaters lead to better outcomes than the panoply of battles and wars. Even little kids often wear too much emotional protection and armor, but maybe they can learn to risk more openness so adults just may follow. I believe sweaters are great gifts, since they add necessary warmth and coziness, and they even provide a little more to hug. Of course, you also can read and enjoy this book as a simple story with fabulous illustrations.

With pictures of the pony in a bunch of different sweater patterns and designs, the end papers are the cutest, too! The Princess and the Pony is a total winner!

my amazon review: softness, not sharpness

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

daily greens: recipe book review

On Amazon, Daily Greens 4-Day Cleanse: Jump Start Your Health, Reset Your Energy, and Look and Feel Better than Ever! by Shauna Martin, with foreword by Mayim Hoya Bialik.

daily greens coverI'm delighted I decided to read the book description and a couple of reviews before deciding this book wasn't for me, which almost happened because of the "Daily Greens 4-Day Cleanse" title. I've heard of various fasts and cleansings, but never undertaken either, but then when I realized author Shauna Martin included recipes for smoothies, salads, and a few other dishes, I figured Daily Greens would be useful and helpful in any case. I especially appreciate the first part of the book where Shauna (whose diet is completely plant-based) explains some of the rationale behind cleansings and fasts. Interesting stuff, as are her lively descriptions of various mostly green super-foods such as the currently super-popular kale, the eternally green fave spinach, (not really green) ginger root, watercress, dandelion greens, cilantro, etc. This is about wisely eating seasonally, which means expending fewer $$$ while enjoying better tasting, more local, frequently organic, healthier fruits and veggies. All the recipes are simple, which adds to the book's appeal and utility. There also are several categorized shopping lists and an index.

daily green back coverA lot of the full-color photography, the text, and page design conveys a verdant, green, growing, and alive sensibility! Besides greens of differing hues and intensities in the layout and design, some of the backgrounds are a lovely, appealing cantaloupe color. Gorgeous full-page photos, lovely smaller pics, too. As a graphic artist-designer and as a reader, I appreciate the open layout of the pages with lots of literal "white space" so it's not cluttered like a pennysaver ad. I also like that the hardbound book stays open on its own. However, as interesting and almost essential as the descriptions and commentary are, given that recipes are the main thing, why not format ingredients and how-to instructions in a larger font that's easy for anyone to read? Even the introductory text to each recipe is in larger type than the recipes themselves!

Despite those reservations, I'm happy to own a copy of Daily Greens, with so many literally good enough to eat photographs, and especially knowing the recipes and ideas will entice me to shop and try some of Shauna Martin's smoothies and other creations.

My Amazon review:

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

complete children's cookbook

Complete Children's Cookbook by DK on Amazon
sunflower loaves

tomato soup

mint chocolate pots

four ways with kebabs

Complete Kids' Cookbook coverYou know there's no such thing as a Complete Cookbook – or a complete any kind of book – yet in 304 pages, this attractive, hefty hardbound book provides over 150 not difficult, easy to follow (for almost any age from about third grade on up) recipes for standard North American favourite dishes in nine categories. Happily, this Complete Children's Cookbook from DK, a Penguin / Random House imprint, includes some vegetarian options. Every single photograph is in vivid full-colour; for the most part, you get a full page photograph of the dish on one side of the page, smaller pics with detailed preparation, cooking, and serving instructions on the opposite page. This cooking book also is fabulous for time- and imagination-challenged grownups who keep hearing or telling themselves, "make something tasty! quick!" You can discover and create something tasty quickly that's not obscure, exotic, pretentious, or requiring impossible to find ingredients. Too bad the gorgeous pics aren't edible!

Following the steps to fix each dish is easy, though I wish they'd formatted details of the numbered procedure or "method" in larger type for younger kids or for oldsters looking over the shoulders of youngsters to help them. As a graphic designer I love Love LOVE the page layout and book design, but I'd very much like easier to read page numbers. I truly get how fun it is to enclose pagination within a fun design, but please either make it larger, or leave the typeface the same basic size but leave it plain and clearly readable. Human (and food, too, I assume) models are from Capel Manor College in Enfield, Middlesex, UK.

my amazon review: beautiful and practical

Monday, March 30, 2015

Coal Wars: Richard Martin

By Richard Martin, Coal Wars: The Future of Energy and the Fate of the Planet

coal wars coverWith a journalist's passion for accuracy, a lover's ardor for the earth, Richard Martin has written a book I needed to read. My late grandfather was a Pennsylvania coal miner, and despite my own currents being worlds removed from that one, I try to stay current on the industry. From page 7: "This is not a book of policy ... nor a polemic on the evils of coal. It's a narrative of the front lines. Crafted as a series of journeys..." The author then explains war metaphors typically are overstatements and "detract from the horrors of real war," but clearly he considers the global situation regarding coal an exception, and a horror unto itself. The Future of Energy and the Fate of the Planet also acknowledges coal has fueled countless true global advances over the centuries.

Wars are about empire, land, violence, lots of losers, immeasurable loss that often can't be reclaimed, and sometimes even a distinctive true winner. We've been hearing a lot about environmental stewardship and about climate change. Coal reserves are not sustainable at the current level of extraction, and this fragile planet will not survive the death-dealing excesses of Big Coal and Big Consumption.

First section, "The Death Spiral" provides an overview of the Tennessee Valley Authority's history, along with information about the rise and decline of coal-driven industry, culture, and lifestyle in the Appalachian states of Kentucky and West Virginia. Part II, "The Surge" portrays mining's success in the western states of Wyoming and Colorado. Absolutely everyone knows about the lack of environmental controls that have led to inordinate levels of toxic pollution in China—Part III, "The Great Migration" tells fascinating stories about some of the industrial players and their human reps, about a few of the "regular people" who've literally donated their lives to big coal in China. Vignettes about Ohio and an epilogue about the Ruhr comprise the final "Dinosaurs" portion of Coal Wars. Not surprisingly, Peabody Energy pervades the pages of Coal Wars, but I felt I had to mention it.

Amazon Vine sent me an unfinished Advance Reader's Edition. Richard Martin paints many pictures with his words, though I don't know if the final edition will include charts, drawings, sketches, and photographs that with the surge of online resources probably are not very necessary these days, but my copy does include helpful endnotes, and apparently the final edition will have an index.

my amazon review: for the life of planet earth

Sunday, February 22, 2015

prodigal father wayward son: review

prodigal father, wayward son cover Because I remembered noticing and loving the title of Sam Keen's "To A Dancing God" in a church library somewhere, and from the brief description of these conversations between father and son, I had to read Prodigal Father/Wayward Son: A Roadmap to Reconciliation. John Bradshaw observed, "This universal and archetypal [conflict] is the inheritance of us all." We've all got parent stuff, there are countless unknown to us events and factors in their histories; just as no one instinctively knows how to make a marriage or any other relationship work out well, no one truly knows how to parent, even if they already have several kids.

I've watched public television only very sporadically, doubtless missing out on a lot of cool exciting stuff, so I wasn't really familiar with Sam Keen. So surprised to discover he'd been a professor at The Louisville Seminary! How telling his description of the seminary professors way back then all dressed up in suits and ties (with nowhere to go), so incredibly business-financial sector establishment in style, yet called to articulate and convey the radically counter-cultural subversive gospel.

Another reviewer described this father/son – parent/offspring conversation as timeless, and that it is. Both guys are intelligent, educated, excellent writers, and had reached the point they wanted to live reconciled and reconnected to each other, but even if someone's credentials aren't as strong as theirs, Sam's and Gifford's experience models "what might be possible" between any family members at almost any stage, and between friends who might have become estranged (though "estranged" isn't quite the accurate word to describe Father and Son Keen's situation). Look through the panoramas of your own relationships, and like the Keens, you well may note how small, fleeting events or incidents have assumed gigantically symbolic proportions in your overview of your lives together and apart from each other.

Even if you don't buy the book, please watch the video on Gifford's amazon page. Prodigal Father, Wayward Son is a keeper for my bookshelves, and probably a loaner, too.

my amazon review: a keeper and a loaner

Sunday, February 15, 2015

twice in a lifetime

Twice In a Lifetime by Marta Perry on Amazon.

twice in a lifetime cover Twice in a Lifetime weaves together history, inspiration, love, mystery, southern family, possibilities...

I picked up Twice in a Lifetime because of the wonderful painting on the cover, and then noticed its setting in South Carolina and in a beach community. I knew I'd enjoy the scenery even if the story didn't move me, but as it turned out, I loved the characters and their individual stories. There's the beachfront house on one of Charleston's barrier islands, Georgia Lee's employment in Atlanta, Georgia, a tenderly close grandmother and granddaughter, and my own imaginings life in the American South still is quieter and simpler than elsewhere. The characters attend church and participate in vacation bible school, but Twice in a Lifetime isn't majorly in-your-face religious; it's simply simple Christianity as an integral part of daily life. The romance that easily happened between Georgia Lee and single dad Matt (who without a doubt was far from the on-the-take northern lawyer family and reader both imagined him to be at first glance) had just enough suspense to be intriguing. Marta Perry's prose is clean and well-edited; although this is first in a series about the Bodine family, I'm happy to consider it a standalone narrative, as I'm not sure I want to be disappointed if the Bodine family future doesn't turn out as I'd like it to. In short? The degree of southernness totally was to my liking, and Twice in a Lifetime definitely merits a future re-reading.

my amazon review: southern, likable, and re-readable

Monday, December 15, 2014

creativity!

From an old ad about one of my favorite activities:

(Oh, yeah,...I'm definitely a grown-up person in the visual arts!)

ColumbiaIn the beginning...a small bell chimed

Creativity! It chimes like a small clear bell at the heart of the human spirit.
Remember the first time you spoke to the world from a piece of shirt cardboard?
Chances are we made some of that board for you...
Now that the quality of your message has changed, however, you really should know more about some of our professional products.

…for all kinds of grown-up people in the visual arts.

Columbia 1776 Illustration Board