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scrounge: /skrounj/ informal verb: to actively seek [books] from any available source

While living in the UK, my family somehow acquired a cassette tape (yes, this was in the 90s) at a gas station (or petrol, as they called it there) called "Miles of Classical." It contained several well-known orchestral pieces of music, including Strauss's "Blue Danube," a movement from Tchaikovsky's "Swan Lake," and, the fifth and last piece on side 1 of the cassette, George Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue," or at least an abbreviated version of it.

Other than "The Nutcracker," I didn't have much love for orchestral music, but listening to that cassette over and over and over on long drives really helped me and my siblings to develop more appreciation for some of these favorites. I'm still not sure I really "understand" jazz music, but Gershwin's piece was definitely my favorite on that cassette. It reminded me at various points of a morning sunrise and a predator/prey chase scene. The piano solo always amazed me. I would try to visualize the showmanship and talent that a piece like that must require. It wasn't until adulthood that I heard the piece in full, and also learned that Gershwin gave the opening notes to a clarinet rather than a saxophone, which made me like him even more (I took clarinet lessons in high school but never did anything cool like that with it).

So when I heard there was a book out called The Music in George's Head: George Gershwin Creates Rhapsody in Blue, I knew I had to procure it someday. There were few pieces of music that I would have been more interested in learning about than this one, but I also wondered how the translation of jazz-to-picture-book would go. 

I think it's fabulous. Everything is drawn in shades of blue with some earth tones thrown in -- gray-blues on the city streets, navy blue swirls of musical notes and piano keys, baby blues for people and sheets of music.. the whole book comes alive in a jazz-blue world, where it recounts factual information but also skips and bumps along at times with a steady, jazzy feel. Most of the text is written in a normal cadence and is not difficult to understand or read, but sometimes we have a "rattle-ty bang" of train tracks or the "WuaaaAAA..." of the clarinet. 

"Sleepy eyes flew open. Restless listeners sat still. People heading for the door hurried back to their seats. Trombones and trumpets blew brassy sounds -- small and soft, then big and bright. Velvety violins started to sing. More musicians joined in. Each carefully playing their sheets of music. Fingers flying, George made those piano keys MARCH. SKIP. Dance. But he didn't have sheet music. George played the notes in his head."

Wish I could've been there!

Scrounged From: PaperbackSwap.com

Format: Hardcover
Author: Suzanne Slade
Illustrator: Stacy Innerst
Pages: 48
Content Advisory: None

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Living with a dinosaur fan can be fun, and I know I've been exposed to and learned so much more about dinosaurs and fossils than I ever did as a kid, thanks to my son taking an interest in them. In Search of Dinosaurs is a dinosaur book that helps to make some connections between the artistic recreations of Mesozoic animals that we see and the fossil dig sites where information about these creatures and environments is collected.

There is a section for each of the three time periods in the Mesozoic Era, and each follows the same format. First we see an artist's recreation of a hypothetical fossil dig. On the next few pages, we see scenes (without text) of what these animals may have looked like when they were alive. This gives readers the opportunity to go back and forth between the fossils and creatures and see if they can figure out which of the living creatures (or parts of them) are represented in the dig.

These scenes are followed by smaller pictures and information blurbs about each creatures -- mostly dinosaurs, but also some other animals such as Cretaceous turtles, as well as ammonites, metaposaurus, a small mammal, etc. There are plenty of good tidbits of information here, but they're presented in a way that's easy to follow. Since the fossils are presented "in context," we also learn a bit more about the kinds of things paleontologists find in digs, and some of the ways they can find clues as to the dinosaurs' behaviors and environments.

(Thanks to NetGalley for the review copy.)

Scrounged From: NetGalley

Format: Kindle
Author: Dougal Dixon
Pages: 44
Content Advisory: None

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I previously enjoyed (and reviewed) Anne's Colors, another book in this series. Anne's Feelings is just as cute, and also a great way to introduce preschoolers to the character of Anne. 

The illustrations are fabric, and capture Anne's spirit well without being too "cutesy." I love the way the soft tones work together, and how Anne's hair has just enough contrast to stand out a little bit. 

In this book, we explore different emotions that Anne feels, based on scenes from the Anne of Green Gables books. From excitement at the prospect of having a dish of ice cream, to anger at Gilbert Blythe, we experience many different emotions, and see several other familiar characters along with Anne. Of course, since context is very helpful when understanding emotions, this book will probably benefit from some explanations, especially when it comes to feelings such as "the depths of despair"! Still fun, and this book is nicely oversized for ease of reading.

(In compliance with FTC guidelines, I disclose that I received this book for free through LibraryThing Early Reviewers. I was not required to write a positive review.)

Scrounged From: LibraryThing giveaway

Format: Board book
Author/Illustrator: Kelly Hill
Pages: 22
Content Advisory: None

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A while back I reviewed Counting Birds (review here), which tells the story of how the long-running citizen science project called the "Christmas bird count" developed, and why it's become so important for scientists and for the birds they are aiming to protect.

Bird Count is also about the bird count, but it approaches it from a more personal angle. It tells the fictionalized story of a girl named Ava and her mom as they participate in the bird count, spending an entire wintery day watching, listening, and collecting data. 

We get to see some of the methodology of counting birds at work here -- for example, a bird can only be counted if two or more people in the group see it. The route the group takes is also identified in advance so they can cover a large area. On each page, we see the tally of different types of birds as it's added to.

The "day in the life" aspect of this book helped to make the bird count come alive, and it inspired me to do some reading on The Audubon Society's website to see what kinds of counting groups are available in my area. Maybe someday we'll make this event part of our winter science education!

(Thanks to NetGalley for the review copy.)

Scrounged From: NetGalley

Format: Kindle
Author: Susan Edwards Richmond
Illustrator: Stephanie Fizer Coleman
Pages: 32
Content Advisory: None

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I enjoyed (and reviewed) a previous Miyuki book entitled Time for Bed Miyuki. In that story, Miyuki thinks up a bunch of tasks she must accomplish before she'll be able to go to bed, as we experience the whimsical nature of her world.

Here in Patience, Miyuki, she has the opposite approach -- she wants things to happen more quickly than they are. Miyuki waits for a flower to bloom and spring to come, but it's not coming quickly enough, and she decides she must find the purest water to sprinkle the flower with to help it open up. I can relate -- living in New England it seems like it takes forever for the snow to melt after winter.

Once again the Japanese-inspired illustrations complement the fantastical storyline that involves talking rivers, giant plants and animals (or perhaps the humans are simply miniature?), and other "unexplained" elements that help the story feel both fresh and mythical (and a bit like Alice in Wonderland). 

Though the "lesson" of the story is not belabored, we do see in the end that sometimes it is better to simply watch and wait for life to unfold rather than trying to force it.

(Thanks to NetGalley for the review copy.)

Scrounged From: NetGalley

Format: Kindle
Author: Roxane Marie Galliez
Illustrator: Seng Soun Ratanavanh
Pages: 32
Content Advisory: None

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