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

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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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I hadn't thought about it much before this, but many of the books of animal poetry I've read tend to focus on animals in their more rugged, wild environments, or perhaps farm animals -- but certainly in rural settings. Hidden City is a bit different, providing factual, descriptive poems about wild animals that live near people or make their habitats in populated areas. 

From back yards and living rooms to dark alleys and skyscrapers, this book highlights the presence of animals of all sizes in these urban spaces, and gives a straightforward poem about each one, highlighting something that it does. 

Whether reading about migrating geese that have stopped for a rest, moss in sidewalk cracks, or raccoons scrounging through a trash can, you certainly don't need to live in a city to appreciate these short glimpses into the lives of many different types of wildlife. The full-page illustrations are full of color and texture, making this a wonderful book to share with young children, and help them appreciate not only poetry, but the animals and other bits of nature that are all around them no matter where they go.

Scrounged From: A LibraryThing giveaway

Format: Hardcover
Author: Sarah Grace Tuttle
Illustrator: Amy Shimler-Safford
Pages: 48
Content Advisory: None

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The Night the Forest Came to Town tells a gentle, rhyming story of some little ways that bits and pieces of wildlife "arrive" overnight in a city. From bird nests to flowers, from rodents to new seedlings, the forest reclaims certain sections of the city that become more visible and beautiful as the sun dawns.

I suppose it's a little bit of a "human vs. nature" story without feeling antagonistic, though a bit idealized in its outcome. Still, I enjoyed the illustrations, especially the colors and vantage points, and I can see how this could bring a bit of gardening inspiration even to a busy city landscape.

(Thanks to NetGalley for the review copy.)

Scrounged From: NetGalley

Format: Kindle
Author: Charles Ghigna
Illustrator: Annie Wilkinson
Pages: 32
Content Advisory: None

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I can't say I've read my children many picture books that focus on a (currently) illegal activity, which is partly why The Man Who Walked between the Towers is so interesting. I'd heard the story of this tightrope walk before, in generalities, but just kind of assumed it was an "approved" act. But no, in 1974 Philippe Petit really did sneak a large roll of cable into the World Trade Center and fasten the cable (with help) between the towers so he could walk and perform at a dizzying height.

This book treats the story fairly matter-of-factly, without moralizing or giving excessive words or details. The illustrations are certainly evocative, and remind me why I'd never even attempt anything this crazy! Petit must have been out of his mind, and yet there's a part of me that has to admire his charisma and courage/insanity a little after reading this.

Scrounged From: Our local library

Format: Hardcover
Author/Illustrator: Mordicai Gerstein
Pages: 34
Content Advisory: The act described is illegal and dangerous, so there is that. But I don't get the impression that the book is encouraging such things.

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Nana in the City is a sweet picture book with simple words and lovely, colorful illustrations that perfectly portray autumn in the city. I have to admit, I sympathize with the little boy in this story. I think cities are scary too. They are loud, crowded, and I never seem to know where I am. But as his Nana shows him around (after making him a cape), he begins to develop an appreciation for everything a city has to offer.

This is a city picture book that even us country bumpkins can enjoy!

Scrounged From: Our local library

Format: Hardcover
Author/Illustrator: Lauren Castillo
Pages: 40
Content Advisory: None

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