Monday, January 29, 2018

Tilly & Tank - a review

Tilly & Tank
by Jay Fleck
Tundra Books, 2017
Tilly & Tank cover art

The basis for Tilly & Tank is a clever idea. From an artistic point of view, a tank and an elephant are similar. The elephant has a trunk, tail, and head. The tank has a barrel, flag, and turret. They recognize themselves to be similar, but are unsure of their differences. Tilly is a peaceful shade of blue. Tank is army green. Tilly assumes Tank to be a friend. Tank assumes Tilly to be the enemy. In the end, however, it's a story of friendship, and incorrect assumptions,

"Oh no! thought Tank. He had been wrong. That wasn't an enemy. That was a friend!"

While the characters are endearing—digitally enhanced paintings in a muted, but colorful palette, the general warlike attitude of Tank may take some explaining. His viewpoint is through the crosshairs of a target sight, and his early responses to Tilly's attempts at friendship are to fire at her.

Tilly and Tank will appeal to kids attracted to weaponry (or elephants!) and educators or parents seeking to reinforce the concept of peace as the alternative to war.

Other Tilly & Tank reviews:
 My copy of Tilly & Tank was supplied by LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Logo for LibraryThing Early Reviewers

Monday, January 22, 2018

Spy on History: Victor Dowd and the World War II Ghost Army - a review

Spy on History: Victor Dowd and  the World War II Ghost Army
by Engima Alberti and Scott Wegener
Workman Publishing, 2018

Perhaps you've heard of the "Quaker guns" used in Revolutionary and Civil War battles—wooden logs painted to look like cannons to fool enemy soldiers into thinking that they faced a superior force.  In the 1980s, the little-known history of the 23 Headquarters Special Troops (a.k.a. the Ghost Army) was declassified, and uncovered a WW II deception of epic proportions.

This second book in the Spy on History series is the true story of the Ghost Army's role in defeating the Nazis—how a battalion of artists, set designers, and similarly creative individuals used elaborate sound, visual, radio, and atmospheric effects to fool the German Army.

Persistent readers will find it chock full of coded messages and clues to discover.  An envelope marked "TOP SECRET" and "CONFIDENTIAL" contains the necessary spy craft tools to decode the book's secrets, but it will take a careful eye to find them.  Clues are within text, borders, images, maps—even the copyright page!

In this sample page from Victor Dowd and World War II Ghost Army, the included red acetate sheet would uncover a clue within the illustration.  Other images require use of the included cipher wheel, velum, or informational WW II "poop sheet."

It should be noted that this book may not be an appropriate purchase for public libraries because the spy craft materials included in the book's "Top Secret" folder may not withstand multiple uses.  If funds were available, however, it would make an excellent choice for a middle-grade book club.  Kids could work cooperatively to find all of the clues, crack the code, and decipher the secret letter from Victor Dowd.

Upon purchase, the final pages that reveal the answers are sealed to avoid premature peeking. I confess that although I found almost all of the clues, I did not fully crack the code before peeking.  I do think, it can be done, however, with a little bit of time and perseverance.  The story of the Ghost Army is fascinating and true, and the book is entertaining on many levels.

National Archives Identifier 292565 "Inflatable dummy weapons" Department of Defense. Department of the Army. Fort Leavenworth, Kansas

My copy of Spy on History: Victor Dowd and the World War II Ghost Army was provided by the publisher.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

National Park Service Celebrates Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

January 15, 2018, is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. I hope that you will find a way to honor the day in a way that has meaning and purpose. For those of you who enjoy the great outdoors, and particularly for those who live near one of the national historic sites dedicated to the Civil Rights Era, consider heading to a National Park Service site tomorrow. Admission to ALL National Park Service locations will be free.  Enjoy your freedoms and your free admission.

Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial in Washington, D.C.
NPS Photo

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

The Turnkey of Highgate Cemetery - a review

The Turnkey of Highgate Cemetery
By Allison Rushby
Candlewick Press,  2018

Despite her young age, Flossie Birdwhistle is the Turnkey of London's Highgate Cemetery.  Having died herself of rheumatic fever at the age of 12, Flossie is now in charge of the well-being of all the souls interred at Highgate.  This alone can be a daunting job, however, when Flossie discovers a mysterious man who is neither of the living nor the spirit world, her job becomes more difficult. Now she must consider the concerns of the living and the very fate of England in WW II,

"Flossie simply couldn't work it out.  Who was this man?  What was he doing in London? And why had he run away like that?

Maybe if she described him, one of the newly interred at Ada's cemetery might know of him.  He was obviously an officer of great importance. Perhaps he had been in the newspapers."
In a story that is more mysterious than horrific, Flossie rallies allies from the ranks of the dead to combat a threat to the living. The Turnkey of Highgate Cemetery is a genre-bending mix of middle-grade historical fiction, thriller, and ghost story. Turnkey should appeal to a wide variety of readers.  Only the extremely timid will find it disturbing; most will enjoy this unusual tale of ghostly heroism in time of war.

Coming this summer to a shelf near you.

Highgate Cemetery in London is on the Registry of Historic Parks and Gardens. Click the links to learn more about it.
Highgate Cemetery East

My copy of The Turnkey of Highgate Cemetery was provided by the publisher at my request.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Audiobook Roundup

I'm not permitted to share my full reviews for AudioFile Magazine, but here are snippets and links to my recent reviews.  It's quite a disparate collection of titles!

By: Ann Bausum
Narrated by: Karen Chilton
Length: 4 hrs and 16 mins
Recorded Books, 2017

Narrator Karen Chilton echoes the determination of Civil Rights activists in Mississippi's often overlooked but hugely influential March against Fear in 1966. 

The Wind in the Willows

By: Kenneth Grahame
Narrated by: Simon Vance
Length: 5 hrs and 47 mins
Brilliance Audio, 2017

Award-winning narrator Simon Vance has the perfect English accent for this 1908 classic featuring four anthropomorphized friends: Mole, Rat, Toad, and Badger. The Wind in the Willows was one of my childhood favorites.  It's a perfect book for shared family listening in the car.  I've listened to excerpts of several other versions of this audio book, and I believe that Simon Vance's recording may be the new standard by which others are judged. 

The Epic Crush of Genie Lo

By: F. C. Yee
Narrated by: Nancy Wu
Length: 8 hrs and 42 mins
Recorded Books, 2017

Once Genie Lo's only concerns were college applications--that is, until the ancient Chinese Monkey King leapt upon her Silicon Valley school desk in the form of the scandalously handsome rebel Quentin Sun.

Beneath the Waves - a review

As we read disturbing news accounts of dying manatees , environmental disasters caused by toxic waste, and ocean pollution on the scale of ...