Saturday, November 14, 2020

The Lost Pianos of Siberia - a review

The Lost Pianos of Siberia

By Sophy Roberts

Grove Press, 2020


The Lost Pianos of Siberia is nonfiction with epic proportions. Spurred by a request from a Mongolian pianist and a dated photo of a piano outdoors in Siberia, British author Sophy Roberts embarked on a quest to find pianos in Siberia and document their provenance. Each of her artfully crafted sentences begs further thought or investigation—but on she goes, searching for pianos, while unearthing cultural, historical, artistic, political, and architectural details that captivate the mind. Just to consider the difficulty in transporting pianos across the frozen permafrost of Siberia in previous centuries is to bear witness to its people's love and appreciation of music. Consider that Tsar Nicholas and the entire Romanov family were transported from Moscow to Siberia, over one thousand miles, for execution, and yet, their piano was brought with them. During WWII, a later generation of Russians risked life and limb to save the Romanov's piano. Siberia's is an immensity of space, time, and misery—but also of music and endurance. To read this book and not pine to see Siberia will be a harder feat than finding the lost pianos of Siberia. 


Some facts about Siberia:
  • It comprises more than 55% of Russia's total size
  • It is roughly equal to the size of Canada
  • Its Lake Baikal is the deepest freshwater lake in the world and is about equal to the Netherlands in surface area


My copy of this book was provided by NetGalley.


Sunday, November 1, 2020

Every Second - a review

Below is my review as it appeared in the May, 2020 issue of School Library Journal.

 Every Second

By Bruno Gilbert

What on Earth Publishing

Gr 1–5—What happens in one second? More than one would think. Though a substantial 56 pages, the book consists primarily of two sentences. The narrative begins, "Every second, around the world 1 wedding is celebrated…" and continues until the summation sentence. Intriguing statistics about our world are interspersed throughout. The facts initially seem random, but they follow a loose pattern. For example, following a series of facts related to human dietary habits, readers learn the volume of human excrement and household waste produced each second (20,300 and 23,300 pounds, respectively) and the relatively paltry amount of recycling and replanting that humans do. The cartoon-style illustrations are in color but use muted tones. Gibert depicts people in a variety of shades including blue; and as illustrative statistics, they are representative rather than emotive. On one page, sand swirls in the sky above an expansive desert dwarfing the blue silhouette of a person on camelback. The text reads, "11,500 pounds of sand, carried by the wind, leave the Sahara Desert." No artwork details are included, but the colors appear porous, evoking newsprint, sponge, or screen printing. VERDICT This book will amuse and enlighten young or casual readers; more thoughtful readers will appreciate its global perspective and many ideas to ponder. 


Reprinted with permission. COPYRIGHT 2020 Library Journals, LLC. A wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 

My copy of Every Second was provided by the publisher.

Saturday, October 10, 2020

The Canyon's Edge - an audiobook review

The Canyon's Edge

By Dusti Bowling

Read by Casey Holloway

Hachette Audio

Narrator Casey Holloway keeps you on the edge of your seat as Eleanor works through her present danger and her tragic past in this novel-in-verse adventure.

I reviewed this audiobook for AudioFile Magazine. Click the link for my complete review.

Friday, August 21, 2020

Dark was the Night - a review

Dark was the Night: Blind Willie Johnson's Journey to the Stars

By Gary Golio

Illustrations by E.B. Lewis

Nancy Paulsen, 2020


Little is known about musician, Blind Willie Johnson, but his unique style of blues and slide guitar made him a popular musician—at first in church, and then on street corners throughout Texas, and finally, with the advent of the phonograph, on records. His song, "Dark was the Night," was selected for inclusion on The Golden Record, sent into space on September 5, 1977.* 

He was not born blind in 1897, but lost his sight and his mother as a young boy. 

Gary Golio answers the questions he poses in the book, 

So how does a blind boy get along? 

How does he make his way in the world?

Willie Johnson's is a story of perseverance and the blues, and it offers a tiny glimpse of the African American experience at the turn of the turn of the 20th century. The inclusion of his music on The Golden Record is a metaphor for our humble beginnings, how far we've come, and how far we've yet to go.

Fitting with the vague details of Willie Johnson's life, E.B. Lewis' watercolor art is indistinct, allowing the reader to gather the feel and mood of the era, the place, the people, and the music—rather than a concrete rendering. The palette is dark, but sun and starlight signify the light of music that reaches all of humanity, even the blind.  

Dark was the Night is an ode with a musicality to it that evokes a bluesy mood. I defy any reader to read this book without seeking out Willie Johnson's music. It will call to you and you won't be able to resist.


* You can track the current location of  The Golden Record's copy of "Dark was the Night" on the Voyager spacecraft's website. []

My copy of Dark was the Night was a digital copy provided by the author.

Friday, August 7, 2020

24 Hours in Ancient Rome - an audiobook review

24 HOURS IN ANCIENT ROME: A Day in the Life of the People Who Lived There 

By Philip Matyszak

Read by Michael Page

Tantor Media, 2020

I absolutely loved this audiobook! Each chapter follows one person for one hour of one day in Emperor Hadrian's Rome (117-138 CE). It's wryly funny and surprisingly relevant. If history were taught like this, everyone would love it. Click to read my review for AudioFile Magazine. Thanks to for my copy. 👍👍 


If you're not an audiobook fan, find a print copy and tell me what you think!




If you're a librarian or educator, check out the Audiobook Listening Copy program.



The Lost Pianos of Siberia - a review

The Lost Pianos of Siberia By Sophy Roberts Grove Press , 2020   The Lost Pianos of Siberia is nonfiction with epic proportions. Spurred ...