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

I can't say that "lively" would be my first choice for "best words to describe rocks," but I also wouldn't have considered the pyramids of Giza in the same thought as comets either, yet both are neatly contained within this succinct exploration of rocks.

I really love this series. A Rock Is Lively takes us on a journey to discover and ponder the scope of rocks, from sandy beaches to asteroids. Like A Seed Is Sleepy (see my review here), the variety here is impressive and awe-inspiring, without being overwhelming. The illustrations are gorgeous, capturing the colors and sparkles of gems as well as the numerous earth tones of more "ordinary" rocks.

We learn about the rock cycle, what rocks are made of, where we can find rocks, and some of the things rocks are used for -- from tools for animals and people, to use as art and weapons throughout history. Phrases like "A rock is inventive..." are the only places I'd consider that this diverges a bit from strict nonfiction, but that's forgiveable because the poetic descriptions add a lot to this book and make it a bit more "lively" than your average geology book. I really love that this series makes topics like this interesting and accessible to small children, but also teaches us older people a thing or two, even if it's just to say "Wow!"

Scrounged From: A Christmas present

Format: Paperback
Author: Dianna Hutts Aston
Illustrator: Sylvia Long
Pages: 40
Content Advisory: None

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I thought P Is for Pterodactyl: The Worst Alphabet Book Ever looked like an amusing book when I first saw it, so I was glad I got it for Christmas last month. It'll make a great conversation piece, and as a proofreader I'm all too familiar with the difficulty that certain English words give us (myself included) -- we have plenty of exceptions to our language rules!

I was indeed amused while reading this, and found it a fun way to collect a good percentage of silent consonants in one place. Probably this wouldn't appeal to children until they were old enough to be reading some of these more difficult English words, but it could also be useful for someone who's learning English as an adult.

In some ways this alphabet book isn't consistent, because not every letter is used as a silent first letter the way P is (as in "Ptolemy the psychic pterodactyl struggles with psoriasis"), but that's understandable. For many letters, the text instead focuses on silent letters in other parts of words (such as the "n" in "hymn" and "autumn" or the "z" in "rendezvous"). Sometimes the book simply points out what a letter is not for, as in "F is not for photo, phlegm, phooey, or phone." Occasionally it "cheats" a little and focuses on words that are more clearly from other languages (J is for Jai Alai, a sport of Basque origin). 

But despite the fact that I think it "reaches" for a few of these, the premise is funny and it does a good job collecting so many weird words with silent letters. At the end is a glossary, which is helpful because I've always wondered how "gnocchi" was pronounced, plus it includes an explanation for why "ptero" got the "p" in the first place.

Scrounged From: A Christmas present from my brother

Format: Hardcover
Authors: Raj Haldar and Chris Carpenter
Illustrator: Maria Beddia
Pages: 32
Content Advisory: None

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Winter Bees is a wonderful picture book of Joyce Sidman's poetry, especially fitting for those who live in a cold climate like we do. Have you ever wondered where bees go in the winter? Or voles, or beavers? This book contains a double-page spread on each featured piece of nature (mostly animals), containing a poem and then a few paragraphs of information about how the animal gets through winter, which helps to fill out the information in the poem.

The poetry here is lovely, and full of clever descriptive phrases. Most poems are of moderate length, managing to communicate a clear picture of winter survival without becoming repetitive or overly wordy.

Bees are "an ancient tribe, a hardy scrum... Together, we boil, we teem, we hum."

Snoflakes are "a lattice of stars spinning silently..."

A raven is a "Squawker, Croaker, Alarm-on-the-wind."

The poem about beavers is written as a pantoum, a poetry form that I don't remember encountering before, featuring some neat repetition of lines.

The illustrations here are amazing -- colorful, full of texture and life. I especially love how a long picture of a branch is drawn as moving from autumn to winter at the beginning of the book, and then again at the end it is shown morphing from winter into spring. 

Scrounged From: Our local library

Format: Hardcover
Author: Joyce Sidman
Illustrator: Rick Allen
Pages: 32
Content Advisory: None

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As Time Went By is a deceptively simple story in three parts about: a ship that breaks down and is eventually abandoned, a prosperous family that loses their wealth and has to go live with the other poor people, and a group of poor people who fix up a ship to use it for their new home.

The story is low on details, and seems sad at first, but I liked the ending. I like how the story forms a loop -- following the ship from its prosperous days, through abandonment, and then to its upcycled use as a dwelling. I suppose this story might be about class. It also asks (in a way subtle enough that children might miss it): what makes a person important?

Maybe it won't be everyone's cup of tea, but I really liked it, and the smoky illustrations were lovely as well.

Scrounged From: Our local library

Format: Hardcover
Author/Illustrator: Jose Sanabria
Pages: 48
Content Advisory: None

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Holes is a book that sat on my to-read pile for a long time, because I'd already seen the movie a few years back, so I wasn't as eager to read a story I'd already heard. Still, not only did I really enjoy the book, but it reminded me how much I really did enjoy the movie as well.

Even though I remembered quite a few of the details, I'd pretty much forgotten the ending, so it was nice that the story added details to what I already knew but saved some surprise for what I didn't.

Stanley Yelnats (yes, his name is a palindrome) is arrested after a freak accident makes it appear that he stole a famous baseball player's shoes. His family's life has generally been unlucky, and they blame it all on his great-grandfather who brought a curse on his family after neglecting to fulfill a promise he made to a friend.

Stanley is sent to Camp Green Lake, which was once a lake but is now a desert, and the boys at the camp are required to each dig a hole in the ground every day. 

It's an odd premise, but I love how the story occasionally flashes back in time to build layers of story until things gradually begin to make sense and you start to see how different characters are interrelated -- dare I say, it's a bit like an onion. Due to the complexity, it's not surprising that the movie doesn't deviate very much from the story, and it's neat that the author wrote the screenplay as well.


Sachar doesn't waste words as he describes the odd characters and their interactions, and so the book flows quickly along. I really enjoyed the story, and now it makes me want to watch the movie again.

Scrounged From: A local flea market

Format: Paperback
Author: Louis Sachar
Pages: 233
Content Advisory: A couple scenes involve violence -- some descriptions of death but not gratuitous.

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