Friday, April 24, 2015

The Disneyland Book of Lists: Unofficial, Unauthorized, and Unprecedented! by Chris Strodder

I have never been to Disneyland in California but I have been to Walt Disney World in Florida several times. After examining The Disneyland Book of Lists: Unofficial, Unauthorized, and Unprecedented! by Chris Strodder, I see that much about the parks is similar. Pirates of the Caribbean, the Haunted Mansion, It's a Small World, Star Tours, and lots of costumed characters can be found in both states. The difference is that Disneyland, the original Disney theme park, packs what it has into a much smaller space.

Strodder's book falls somewhere between a historical reference and a travel guide. Arranged into thirteen chapters are lists about the park's origins, its attractions, the shops and restaurants, the business, its guests, its cast (people who work at Disneyland), and its impact on popular culture. Some of the lists provide practical advice for visiting, but most lists are offered as entertaining observations by either the author or by Disney fans or employees whom he has interviewed. There are many lists. Strodder has obviously researched his topics energetically.

I most enjoyed lists about the popular culture impact of Disney parks and about the origins of the attractions, most of which were built first in California and them duplicated in Florida. There is, however, a list of attractions that debuted in Florida as well.

Someone going to Disneyland for the first time will probably just get lost in this book, but the frequent guests (there are a lot of them) will find much to like in The Disneyland Book of Lists. Any library that needs to stock a variety of books on Disneyland will benefit by having this title, too.

Strodder, Chris. Disneyland Book of Lists: Unofficial, Unauthorized, and Unprecedented! Santa Monica Press, 2015. 360p. ISBN 9781595800817.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Birdology: 30 Activities and Observations for Exploring the World of Birds by Monica Russo

In both of the first two libraries in which I worked as a librarian with my MLS, the adult and juvenile nonfiction was shelved together. The reasoning was that adults and children could benefit from many of the same books and they could be found all in one place. Birdology: 30 Activities and Observations for Exploring the World of Birds by Monica Russo is just the kind of book that supported that philosophy. It is aimed at young readers but offers much to readers of any age.

Inside the brightly illustrated cover of Birdology are lessons on birding, basic ornithology, do-it-yourself experiments, and many beautiful photographs of birds. Though I am about 50 years beyond the target audience, I read with interest, gaining understanding of some aspects of bird life that I had not realized reading more scholarly works. That birds who eat only insects in flight must migrate in winter is probably in the books I've previously read but it never registered with me. Woodpeckers who pick insect eggs and larvae from bark can winter over in many climates. I saw woodpeckers all winter long because of this.

I read with the interest the section on attracting birds to your yard with plants. We are expanding our flowerbed and replacing shrubs in the next few weeks. I will keep the birds in mind.

Birdology is a good addition to any public library.

Russo, Monica. Birdology: 30 Activities and Observations for Exploring the World of Birds. Chicago Review Press, 2015. 108p. ISBN 9781613749494.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Beneath the Surface: Killer Whales, SeaWorld, and the Truth Beyond Blackfish by John Hargrove

On a family trip to Orlando in 1980, John Hargrove saw a killer whale show at SeaWorld and immediately knew his vocation. He wanted to be a trainer and ride the orcas into the air. To get his wish, he focused on learning everything about the whales and convinced his family to take vacations that included the Florida theme park. He asked trainers questions at the park and wrote letters to them from home. Finally in 1993, his dream came true when he was hired as apprentice trainer at SeaWorld in San Antonio.

In Beneath the Surface: Killer Whales, SeaWorld, and the Truth Beyond Blackfish, he recounts how after many years as a dedicated SeaWorld employee he slowly realized how his love for being with the killer whales had blinded him to the ethics of using them in popular entertainment. He saw they were stressed by the demands of performing unnatural behaviors up to seven times a day and then bored in the confinement in small pools when not in training or performing. He was also appalled by the discomfort and danger to whales required for artificial insemination and by SeaWorld's policy of separating mothers and offspring, who would be together for life in the ocean. He began to sense the truth in the animal rights movement criticism of trained animal entertainment.

Changing sides was still difficult because it meant leaving his employment, closest friends, and the whales he loved. Agreeing to speak out in the documentary Blackfish was his declaration of his new conscience.

While at first glance Beneath the Surface might seem a book that would appeal to a narrow audience, for Hargrove is hardly a national celebrity or killer whales a frequent front page news story (except when a trainer is accidentally killed), but his situation is universal. Many of us have matters of conscience that trouble us upon which we do not act because we would sacrifice so much. Combine that with subjects of animal rights, wildlife conservation, government regulation, and corporate responsibility and the title deserves a wider audience. Nonfiction book discussion groups should consider Beneath the Surface.

Hargrove, John. Beneath the Surface: Killer Whales, SeaWorld, and the Truth Beyond Blackfish. Palgrave Macmillan, 2015. 272p. ISBN 9781137280107.

Friday, April 17, 2015

The Art of Migration: Birds, Insects, and the Changing Seasons in Chicagoland by Peggy Macnamara

The spring migration of birds has just begun. While there are many books, articles, and websites that tell birders what species to expect when and where, a particularly interesting title to me is painter Peggy Macnamara's The Art of Migration: Birds, Insects, and the Changing Seasons in Chicagoland. With text by John Bates and James H. Boone, she alerts readers to the birds and insects that will come up the Mississippi flyway through the counties surrounding Chicago.

Macnamara's watercolor illustrations are not by any means photographic, but they reproduce the effects of sunlight and shade on birds and insects as observed outdoors. Their intentional impressionism prepares spotters to natural conditions that are not ideal for seeing everything that the best photographers have been able to present in their bird and insect guides.

Working often with the scientists at the Field Museum of Chicago, Macnamara has access to the museum's specimens of birds and insects collected for over a century. Of particular interest to her are the birds who died during migration when they crashed into buildings in downtown Chicago or along the lakefront. These birds were gathered and brought to the museum every day for about 30 years. A census of them shows trends in the migrations passing through the area. Current numbers are way down thankfully because building managers have reduced lights and architects have designed friendlier buildings, but there are still plenty of bird corpses to gather.

Macnamara's book will interest artists as well as birders, as she often describes how she uses her brush to apply colors and shading. As a professor at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and illustrator-in-residence at the Field Museum, she has much experience. The Art of Migration could as easily be shelved in the art section as the zoology area.

Since Macnamara and her co-authors tell so much about the birds and where to see them in the Chicago area, we shelve it with other helpful birding guides.

Macnamara, Peggy. The Art of Migration: Birds, Insects, and the Changing Seasons in Chicagoland. University of Chicago Press, 2013. 202p. ISBN 9780226046297.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

The Italians by John Hooper

On a recent trip to Italy, we met many friendly people. I have fond memories of the desk clerks, waiters in restaurants, tour guides, and salespeople I met. Of course, they were all in a monetary relationship with me, but they seemed genuinely pleasant and thoughtful people, just like many of the people journalist John Hooper met during his long tenure as a correspondent in southern Europe. He tells about them in his new book The Italians.

Hooper's aim in The Italians is to define the essential character of the people of Italy and what factors shaped them. The problem with this is that there is not one type of Italian and the task is about as easy as defining a typical American. Like most of the countries in Europe, Italy is increasing diverse as it accepts immigrants from Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, often doing the jobs that Italians will not do. That sound familiar? Hooper says that Italian children are urged to be independent but often live safely, not challenging social conventions. Many are living with their parents long into adulthood, too. Hooper sometimes compares the Italians to the Spanish, which is to be expected since he wrote The Spaniards and The New Spaniards.

Despite the need to generalize, Hooper has written a book I find fascinating. He starts with a bit of history to explain differences in northern and southern Italian upbringing and the general lack of faith in the nation to protect itself from outside forces. The peninsula has been invaded many times from various directions. The periods of glory for the natives have been few since the fall of the Roman empire - though it can be argued that through the spread of the Roman Catholic Church, Italy has conquered much of the world.

Readers learn much about the country that seems very safe for tourists despite (or because of) the power of the mafia. Hooper examines people in the media, schools, the government, police forces, and the church. Having lived among the Italians for about a couple of decades, the author knows many good stories to tell. I recommend the book to anyone wanting to travel to Italy.

Hooper, John. The Italians. Viking, 2015. 316p. ISBN 9780525428077.

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

The Roman Guide to Slave Management : A Treatise by the Nobleman Marcus Sidonius Falx by Jerry Toner

While in Rome, I had access to wifi in our hotel. At all times a librarian, I decided to see what books I could download from my work library's digital collection to my phone while in a foreign country. Of course, I could download anything I could in Illinois, but just doing it on foreign soil would give me more creed with the clients who ask about digital books for their travels. Looking through the history offerings on eRead Illinois, I found The Roman Guide to Slave Management : A Treatise by the Nobleman Marcus Sidonius Falx by Jerry Toner. Being in the historic city, it seemed an appropriate choice. I clicked "borrow" and had the book on my phone in less than a minute.

I started the book while in Rome but set it aside until I returned home. I got the hardback edition of the title last week and finally got back to reading. I still prefer a print edition when available.

Marcus Sidonius Falx is not a name you are going to find in your search of Roman history, but someone just like him must have existed. He would have been a nobleman with slaves both in Rome and in the country. His wealthy family would have had slaves for generations. He would have seen that a slight profit could be made from selling some scrolls with his his advice to new slaveholders.

That Toner was able to mysterious interview the nearly two thousand year old nobleman is a fact we should just accept and read Falx's advice, which seems strange and cruel to us now. Falx is an almost likable character who has some entertaining stories to tell. At the end of his chapters, Toner steps in to provide academic references that document the historical details and attitudes to which Falx refers.

The Roman Guide to Slave Management is an easy read and can be used to make history more interesting to students. It also suggests questions to discuss about twenty-first century slavery and near-slavery. It is worth reading from a scroll, bound book, or digital tablet. It should be in more libraries than it currently is.

Toner, Jerry. The Roman Guide to Slave Management : A Treatise by the Nobleman Marcus Sidonius Falx. Overlook Press, 2014. 216p. ISBN 9781468309379.

Monday, April 06, 2015

Bird Books Old and New

I have been devoting much of my free time to birding this spring, lessening the time I have spent writing this blog. I haven't stopped reading, though I may be reading a little less, and my focus lately has been books about birds or Italy.

I live in the Chicago suburbs and visit various DuPage County Forest Preserves to see what I might see. My reading, however, is geographically unbound. Through the pages of The World of the Shorebirds by Harry Thurston, I have been able to travel by armchair all over North and South America, learning about the behaviors and migrations of plovers, sandpipers, oystercatchers, jacanas, stilts, avocets, and thick-knees. This Sierra Club Book is nearly twenty years old, so readers need to look up more recent statistics about bird populations and what is happening in critical flyways. The photos are still beautiful, and the author inspires love of birds.

I am traveling around the planet in Woodpeckers of the World by Gerard Gorman. Woodpeckers can be found on every continent except Australia and Antarctica. South America has the most, some of which have very small ranges. Many do not migrate, so they won't be coming up my way this spring or ever. Gorman explains that little is known about some of the more remote species and that there is disagreement about which ones should be certified as species. He profiles 239 woodpeckers, identifying ranges, habitats, behaviors, and population status; the photos he includes are gorgeous. This recent guide is hefty. The author put many years into its making.

Sweep Up the Sun by Helen Frost and Rick Lieder is a children's book that brings me home. I have seen every bird in this book already this year, either in our yard or at one of the nearby preserves. The text is a poem about flying by Frost set into amazing photos by Lieder, each showing a familiar bird in flight. Sweep Up the Sun is a great addition to any young ornithologist's collection.

I also just read a book about hummingbird rescue for Booklist. Watch there for a review.

Thurston, Harry. The World of Shorebirds. Sierra Club Books, 1996. 117p. ISBN 0871569019.

Gorman, Gerard. Woodpeckers of the World: A Photographic Guide. Firefly Books, 2014. 528p. ISBN 9781770853096.

Frost, Helen and Rick Lieder. Sweep Up the Sun. Candlewick Press, 2015. ISBN 9780763669041.