Book Review: Tulipomania : The Story of the World’s Most Coveted Flower & the Extraordinary Passions It Aroused, Mike Dash

Book Review: Tulipomania: The Story of the World’s Most Coveted Flower & the Extraordinary Passions It Aroused, Mike Dash

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Nonfiction History: Tulipomania: The Story of the World’s Most Coveted Flower & the Extraordinary Passions It Aroused, Mike Dash

What could be more “spring” than the tulip? Sprouting up through the snows of March and April, the leaves give promise to the arrival of the beautiful flowers later in the spring. Heralding the end of spring and the beginning of summer, tulips might have been made for Mother’s Day.

 

No place is more associated with tulips than the Netherlands. Iconic pictures of tulip fields with windmills in the background evoke the low countries as much as do wooden shoes and massive sea-dikes. For historians and economists, those pictures of tulip fields also remind them of the Tulip Mania period of Dutch history. During the mid-1630s, prices of individual tulip bulbs soared precipitously. Fortunes were made and lost. Bulbs were sold for the price equivalent of several acres of land, or for several months’ or even years’ wages of an average citizen.

 

Tulip bulbs first made their way into western Europe from Turkey, particularly from the courts and royal gardens of the Ottoman Empire. Easy to move, easy to grow, and (from bulbs) quick to flower, they became very popular everywhere they were introduced. Their vivid colors, their hardiness in cooler European climates, and their shapely form (often poetically compared to female anatomy) made them a favorite among horticulturalists and gardeners alike. For both novice and experienced gardeners they are a rewarding feature in almost any landscape.

 

Although it’s uncertain where they first became subject to the Mosaic virus, tulips in Western Europe would randomly become “broken” because of illness. The virus affected the longevity and the overall health of the plant, but it also created uniquely colored and patterned flowers. Thus, gardeners would sometimes plant a tulip of one color and realize a flower that was very different. These flowers would often, but not always, replicate the same features in their offsets. Although the science had not yet discovered genetics nor viruses, growers tried to propagate these happy accidents. Since tulip bulbs will create offsets, they were often successful since the offsets are essentially clones of the original bulb and if the original bulb is infected, they usually were as well. Despite being sick with a virus, the color variations and uniqueness of these ill flowers increased the demand for them, and since the illness shortened the life expectancy and the productivity (in creation of offsets) of the infected plants, it also reduced the supply.

 

Early in the 1630s, demand for these unique tulips infected with the Mosaic virus began to increase. This coincided with the introduction of a “futures” market. Tulips could be purchased on speculation and then sold again on speculation without either the buyer or the seller actually physically owning a bulb. Most of these transactions occurred in the backroom of taverns in Amsterdam, Haarlem, and other towns in what is now the Netherlands. These tavern transactions kept them out of the mainstream economy. No doubt they were of great importance, economically and otherwise, to the participants. But they occurred within a sort of shadow economy beyond legal recognition or regulation and without the participation of the real movers and shakers among Dutch.  This no doubt allowed the mania to flower (pun intended), but it also protected the country as a whole when it eventually withered (yes, I did it again).

 

And wither it did. The height of the speculative pricing for the tulips was reached in January, 1637. In February, it suddenly stopped. Tulips that a month before could not be purchased for almost any price now could not be sold for any price. Buyers that in January were willing to mortgage their houses to pay for a few bulbs were unwilling to pay pocket change for those same bulbs in February. The result: people were left owing a fortune to growers with no way to pay them back. Growers were left with paper IOUs equivalent to millions of today’s dollars, and with fields of tulips that no one wanted to buy any more.

 

It’s easy to look back and laugh at the folly, but this was the first “bubble” and crash seen in the modern economic system. In many ways it was a harbinger for future stock and dot.com and housing bubbles that were to come. Buy low and sell high is great advice, and is usually only obvious in hindsight. If the lessons taught by these backroom deals in Dutch taverns were easily learned, we likely would have mastered them by now. Any economist or even casual investor can tell you, we have not.

 

Perhaps the best lesson to be learned is that tulips are an investment in beauty. A garden may be enhanced by them, A mother or sweetheart may appreciate a bouquet of them. The Golden Age of the Netherlands hardly noticed this blip in their economy, and because of some (late) regulatory intervention, most investors and growers did not lose everything despite the paper losses they may have incurred. If you want to make a fortune, tulips are not the commodity to buy. But if you want to make a splash around Mother’s Day, it may be the perfect investment.

 

Mike Dash’s book Tulipomania covers the history of the flower, from its emergence in Ottoman gardens to its spread into western Europe to its central place in the craze of 1630s Dutch speculation. Although the book is sometimes a bit dry and academic, it does a good job of emphasizing both how intense the mania was and yet how peripheral it was to the overall economic health of the affected areas. If you are looking for an accessible introduction to the subject, I recommend Tulipomania as a good starting point.

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Book Review: Tulipomania: The Story of the World’s Most Coveted Flower & the Extraordinary Passions It Aroused, Mike Dash

Book Review: The Myth of Race, Robert Wald Sussman

Book Review: The Myth of Race, Robert Wald Sussman

The Myth of Race: The Troubling Persistence of an Unscientific Idea

Robert Wald Sussman

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In “The Myth of Race,” Robert Wald Sussman traces the history of racist philosophy through America. This was a very troubling and challenging book. Racism is hard to eradicate. Scientific evidence shows there is no biological difference between humans that divides them in any meaningful category. Race is simply a social construct. There is every bit as much biological difference between two “white” people or two “black” people as there is between any given “white” or “black” person. Biologically speaking, there is only one race: human.

 

You cannot read the news without seeing the current manifestations of racism continuing. The Supreme Court just heard arguments on the Muslim ban. Nazis held a rally in Georgia, complete with burning swastikas. Last year a white supremacist rally led to the death of a counterprotestor: the president famously commented after her death that there were good people “on both sides.” Racism is far from dead, even though scientifically speaking the idea of “race” is dead.

 

That has not stopped people from using the imprimatur of science to advance policies that treat people differently based upon their skin color, national origin, religious affiliation, etc. In America the obvious example is slavery. For centuries, people were enslaved because their skin color was darker. This was justified in a variety of ways, usually by asserting that “white” people were superior to “black” people. Racist ideology was not satisfied with that broad of a brush, though, and went on to distinguish between types of white people. “Nordic” or “Aryan” people were (by their standards) the best. Physically the strongest and healthiest, mentally the smartest, and morally the purest, these people were born to rule and lead, and other races (including other white races) were lucky to serve them. If that sounds like Nazi ideology to you, you’re right. Sadly, it was also the ideology of many in the United States.

 

Prior to Darwin, those who held this position justified it biblically in one of two ways. The Bible says that humans come from Adam and Eve. Pre-Darwinian racists justified their racism by asserting either a) non-whites had degenerated to some subhuman status by their rebellion against God after creation, or b) non-whites were descended from some subhuman created being that the Bible does not describe. Either way, the conclusion went, they were not fully human and therefore not deserving of treatment as such.

 

Post Darwin, racists felt less compelled to justify their opinions against a Bible which does not support their conclusions, but they continued to conclude that people who did not look like them were inferior or even subhuman. Darwinism inspired a new strategy, though: eugenics. If nature’s goal was survival of the fittest, then government should work to assure that the best (white) only bred with the best. Not only should good families be rewarded, but bad (non-white) families should be discouraged from procreating. Laws preventing immigration from non-European countries were passed. Required sterilization of unworthies was advocated (though seldom carried out). Discussions about forced repatriation to Africa of black Americans were held at the highest levels of government.

 

These were not marginal views held by radicals. US Presidents Woodrow Wilson and Theodore Roosevelt were part of the eugenics movement. Industrialists like Rockefeller and J.P. Morgan were, too. Classes in eugenics were taught in most Ivy League schools, as well as Stanford and almost every university in the south. Major newspapers including the NY Times wrote articles praising eugenics and eugenicists. Since Jews were considered non-white, antiSemitism was rampant. Many US firms provided material support to Nazi Germany at least until the US entered the war (evidence shows some even provided support to both sides after the US began fighting). This was not just an act of profiteering: contemporary documents show a great deal of sympathy for the Nazi positions of sterilization and genocide of undesirables. Many white Americans saw Nazism as necessary to defend the “white race” against Jews, “Mediterraneans,” “Eastern Europeans,” and, of course, people of color from around the world.

 

One of the few exceptions to this was in Columbia University, where Franz Boas became a professor of anthropology. He was one of the first to scientifically show that the basis for racism was unscientific and illogical. His work formed the foundation for modern anthropology. His students (one of whom was Margaret Mead) went on to shape the discussion of race and humanity for generations. Boas’ impact is still felt today, a full century later. One historian said, “It is possible that Boas did more to combat race prejudice than any other person in history.” After reading this book, I can believe it.

The Myth of Race is a sobering look at racism in America. Sadly, it is not just a history of the idea. It is a myth that still shapes policy and attitudes today.

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Book Review: Nudge: Improving Decisions about Health, Wealth, and Happiness, Richard H. Thaler and Cass R. Sunstein

Book Review Nonfiction: Nudge: Improving Decisions about Health, Wealth, and Happiness, Richard H. Thaler and Cass R. Sunstein

 

I’ll admit, I was hoping to read Nudge and get much smarter about making decisions. That is not exactly what the book delivers. Nudge is more for wonks — geeks focused on government and/or political policy. If you make decisions, set policies, create procedures, or design products that involve choices by other people, then Nudge is definitely for you. If you are looking for guidance in making better decisions for yourself in these matters, well, the lessons are a bit more abstract. Incidentally, Richard H. Thaler, co-author of Nudge, won the 2017 Nobel Prize in Economics for his contributions to behavioral economics, the integration of psychology and economics. For more on the Nobel details see https://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/economic-sciences/laureates/2017/press.html

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As an abstract guidance lesson, take the following example from Nudge. Educators in San Marcos, TX, wanted to improve the rates of college admission by graduates from local high schools. Obviously there are any number of things that potentially could have helped: increased emphasis on academic classes, better preparation for college admissions tests, etc. But San Marcos is an area where few parents had ever gone to college. For many students, the idea of college was not something they ever entertained. So San Marcos added a graduation requirement: every graduating student has to complete and submit a college application to the local community college. Counselors from nearby Austin Community College visited with students and helped them complete the application. They also talked to students about how much more money college graduates make (on average) compared to those who only finish high school. They provided financial aid information and assistance with other potential barriers to college attendance. The result: in one year the percentage of San Marcos High graduates who went on to college increased by 11%!

 

That is the kind of Nudge that Thaler and Sunstein are talking about. They coin a phrase, “paternal libertarianism” to describe the type of choice architecture they propose. Anytime a choice is offered, decisions are made as to how those choices are presented. A cafeteria might choose to group foods according to type, according to color, alphabetically, randomly, etc. The location and groupings of the food will influence the choices people make when eating. If it is a school cafeteria, the manager can choose to position the fare in a way that maximizes profit. That, though, may not be in the best health interests of the students. Thaler and Sunstein would propose that consideration must be given to maximizing the health interests of students.

 

The two words of their phrase must balance each other for their proposals to work. “Paternal” implies looking out for the benefit of those making the choices. It assumes that choices can be objectively measured as “better” or “worse.” An insurance plan that covers more medications at a lower price is going to be better than one that covers fewer prescriptions for a higher price, if you are dealing with a population that uses a lot of prescriptions. Thus, if you are presenting insurance plans to (for example) an elderly population, you might “Nudge” them toward making that better choice. This can be done in several ways: listing it first, making it the default choice, advertising it more aggressively, giving it a leading name (perhaps “the BEST insurance”).

 

But they firmly argue that “libertarianism” is equally important. One choice may be objectively better than another for most people, but removing people’s choices is removing their freedom. In the insurance example, they might suggest that the best prescription plan be the default plan for seniors who take a lot of medicine, but they would not want that to be the only choice. What about those seniors who expect to have a lot of surgery but not as many medications? What about those who are in excellent health and would prefer to pay a lower premium? They argue that a nudge is important, but choice is equally important. San Marcos may require applications to the community college, but none of their graduates is obliged to attend. That is a paternal nudge with a libertarian conscience. That hypothetical cafeteria manager may group foods to encourage healthy eating, but she might still provide the option to eat cake and drink soda. That is a paternal nudge with a libertarian conscience. Those are the types of examples that meet with Thaler and Sunstein’s approval.

 

Individually, the best parts of Nudge describe how humans generally make choices. In a word, they make them poorly. So the authors have some suggestions for fooling ourselves into making better choices. One example is in the area of saving. Americans are particularly bad at saving money. But we are good at making well-intentioned promises. They suggest starting saving with a small, easily managed amount of money. Make the withdrawals automatically on your payday so you never actually see the money in your checking account. Then, set up your IRA (or other savings vehicle) to increase that amount by a percentage every year, kicking in at the same time as your annual raise (assuming you get one). This way the amount withdrawn increases as your income increases, and continues to be “hidden” by not appearing in the checking account.  This does not reduce your choices: you can always change or even cancel this process. But it uses some of our own human weaknesses as leverage to attain a desirable outcome.

 

Although the authors do address objections and concerns within the book, I remained cautious after reading it. I see huge advantages to the kind of Nudge – paternal libertarianism they describe. But I also see the possibilities of less altruistic persons using their choice architecture to lead consumers toward decisions that benefit companies and not people.  The authors use the example of Enron, and the way their retirement benefits were geared toward pushing employees to reinvest their retirement money into Enron stock. They use this as a negative example, and indeed when Enron collapsed many of their employees lost their life savings along with their jobs. The authors encourage companies to do the opposite, to promote diversifying retirement investments and promote strategies that are both safe and employee-focused. Other than altruism, though, I am not sure they make a compelling case for companies to do this, and my experience has made me wary of the altruistic motives of most corporations.

 

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I would love to say that reading Nudge will change the way you make decisions and transform you into a healthier, wealthier, and happier human being. That outcome lies beyond the scope of the authors. However, it does give great insight into how choices can be presented in ways that encourage positive decisions and growth. Nudge is worth the read if for no other reason than to understand the motivators behind our decisions (and those behind our choices to NOT make certain decisions). Perhaps understanding ourselves is the best first step toward making better choices.

Book Review: Nudge: Improving Decisions about Health, Wealth, and Happiness, Richard H. Thaler and Cass R. Sunstein

If you are interested in political policy also see

Book Review Nonfiction: Political Tribes: Group Instinct and the Fate of Nations, Amy Chua

Booklist about Books for Shared Reading with Children

Booklist about Books for Shared Reading with Children

 

Books were an everyday part of my boys’ life from the time that they were very little. Instead of wanting to sleep with a plush toy, they all opted to sleep with their current favorite book at night. And of course, they all tried the flashlight under the covers to read past bedtime trick. When Son #2 was in elementary school, he was devastated to learn that books were for the serious purpose of homework and learning because until he reached 3rd grade, he thought that books were only for fun like toys. Harsh reality of life for the poor little guy in 3rd grade. To encourage a love of books and reading try a few of these books about books, where books and stories are central to the overall plot.

 

Before Shared Reading

Review and label the parts of a book including the little noticed sections like the gutter, end pages, and dedications.  Books also include information about their publishing including the country where the book was actually printed and the fonts or type used for the lettering. If you have a library book edition, you may notice that the brightness of the inks maybe vary depending on the age of the book – recently published books tend to have more vibrant colors while older books have more muted colors due to advances in printing. Exam some of these usually overlooked details to find out something new about the book and how it was made.

 

During Shared Reading

Periodically talk about the importance of stories or books and the role it plays in the overall plot. Also, ask your child how they would feel, if they were in the main character’s place. Would they feel the same way about stories and books?

 

After Shared Reading

Look at the back of the book and see if there are any author notes. Some authors write letters to their readers to help the reader connect and understand the book better or the writer’s thought process. Sometimes there are also questions in the back of the book that can be used to encourage discussion on the book.

Make a point to ask your child to share a simple story with the family — about their day, favorite events, challenges they faced. Share a story yourself. All books start out as a story in the imagination of the author before it is written down — your child can be a storyteller or writer as well.

 

Books about Books for Shared Reading with Children

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How This Book Was Made

Words by Mac Barnett

Pictures by Adam Rex

Picture Book Ages 4 – 8

Go behind the scenes or rather inside the scene, to see how this book was made — with a big dose of humor in the form of a tiger and pirate. Also see other “meta-books” with a sense of humor: My Worst Book Ever, words by Allan Ahlberg and pictures by Bruce Ingman; Once Upon a Zzz, words and pictures by Maddie Frost; Whose Story is this Anyway? words by Mike Flaherty and pictures by Oriol Vidal; as well as, Help We Need a Title, words and pictures by Herve Tollet.

 

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This Book Just Ate My Dog!

Words and Pictures by Richard Byrne

Picture Book, Part of a Trilogy Ages 4 – 8

Bells dog disappears into the gutter of the book, the fold in the middle of the book when it is spread apart. Follow her adventure to rescue her dog as well as those who try to help her. Also see by the same author, This book is Out of Control! and We’re in the Wrong Book! For another carnivorous book tale see — Open Carefully: A Book with Bite, words by Nick Bromley and pictures by Nicola O’Bryne. Also enjoy the classic although not carnivorous, from Sesame Street, The Monster at the End of this Book.

 

 

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I am a Story

Words and Pictures by Dan Yaccarino

Picture Book Concept Ages 4 – 8

Reminds readers about the power of storytelling to bring people together — past, present, future — no matter what format or shape the story takes.

 

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A Child of Books

Words by Oliver Jeffers

Pictures by Sam Winston

Picture Book Ages 5 – 12

The guide, A Child of Books, takes a young boy and the reader through a  delightful adventure of the wonder of words, storytelling, and books. Includes snippets from classic children’s literature. Will be an encouragement to new readers and an inspiration to capable readers.

 

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How Rocket Learned to Read

Words and Pictures by Tad Hill

Picture Book Ages 3 – 7

Parents’ Choice Silver Honor

A little yellow bird teaches Rocket the puppy how to read. Also see by the same author, Rocket Writes a Story and Rocket’s Mighty Words. Great choice for new readers and those just starting to learn.

 

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Abe Lincoln: The Boy Who Loved Books

Words by Kay Winters

Pictures by Nancy Carpenter

Picture Books Memoir Ages 5 – 9

Shares the story of Abraham Lincoln’s childhood love of books and how reading helped him grow into the man who became the 16th President of the United States. See also Tomas and the Library Lady by Pat Mora.

 

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How to Read a Story

Words by Kate Messner

Pictures by Mark Siegel

Picture Books Concept Ages 5 – 8

Reminds readers of the perfect process for reading a story.

 

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A Squiggly Story

Words by Andrew Larsen

Pictures by Mike Lowery

Picture Books Ages 4 – 8

Reminds readers, that they too can be writers and authors and it all starts with one letter.

 

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Matilda

Roald Dahl

Chapter Book Ages 8 – 12

Matilda loves books. She also has a secret superpower that she uses to save herself from the dreaded head of the school. Also enjoy the 1996 PG movie adaptation of Matilda which was a family favorite through the elementary and yearly middle school years, for more on the movie see https://www.commonsensemedia.org/movie-reviews/matilda 

 

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The Librarian

Eric Hobbs

Chapter Book, Part 1 of a Series, Ages 8 – 12

A fantasy adventure, where the characters from classic children’s literature come alive in Astoria’s library.

 

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The Story Thieves

James Riley

Chapter Book Part 1 or a Series Ages 8 – 12

Owen teams up with classmate, Bethany, who is really a fictional character, to rescue her father by jumping into his favorite book for an amazing fantasy adventure.

 

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The Book Thief

Marus Zusak

Young Adult Fiction Ages 12 and Up

In 1939 in Nazi Germany, Liesel steals books to read to her foster family and the Jewish man seeking refuge in their basement. Also see the 2014 PG-13 movie adaptation for a review see https://www.commonsensemedia.org/movie-reviews/the-book-thief; for more on the Holocaust read The Diary of Anne Frank.

If you like this booklist, then see our

Booklist: Books about Libraries for Shared Reading with Children

Book Review: The Invisible Library Series, Genevieve Cogman

Share your favorite book about books here

 

Booklist: Books about Libraries for Shared Reading with Children

Booklist: Books about Libraries for Shared Reading with Children

Celebrating National Library Week, April 8 – 14

 

Our boys grew up loving libraries. On son #2’s 10th birthday, by his choice, we did the two things he loved most in the world  – eat at the local Chinese restaurant and then visit the library. He had a special seat by the window in the children’s section where he would curl up and read a stack of books. Later when he was in 5th grade, he wrote a poem about the library that he gave to his favorite children’s librarian. Libraries are a safe haven that children of all ages can enjoy. Celebrate National Library Week! Visit your local library and check out some books about libraries.

 

Before Shared Reading

Depending on your child’s attention span, try reading two books in one shared reading time. Pair a story book with a concept or nonfiction book. Talk about what is the same and different between pretend stories and realistic stories.

During library story times, in addition to introducing the book’s title, author, and illustrator, librarians also include a short teaser lead-in to focus reader attention.  This teaser blurb is known as a “Book Talk”. Your local library may have a reference book of Book Talks for popular story time books or you can see examples of Book Talk in action by viewing episodes of PBS’ Reading Rainbow. Storyline Online also has great examples of Book Talks in action.

 

During Shared Reading

To build comprehension, point out what is the same and what is different between the story libraries in the books and your local library.

 

After Shared Reading

To celebrate libraries in the best way possible, plan a trip together to your local library or book mobile. Based on the book you read together discuss what to expect at the library.

During the trip talk about your local library’s policies, discuss what is age appropriate and necessary (for example, how old your child is or being able to write their own name) for your child to have their own library card. Celebrate with your child if they are ready for their own library card by checking out a book about libraries or books.

After the trip, set up a home library and role play visiting and checking out books.

 

Booklist: Books about Libraries for Shared Reading with Children

Celebrating National Library Week, April 8 – 14

 

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The Library Lion

Words by Michelle Knudsen

Pictures by Kevin Hawkes

One day a lion drops in for the library story time; Hmmm, let’s see what happens next.

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The Library Dragon

Words by Carmen Agra Deedy

Pictures by Michael P. White

Sunrise Elementary has a new librarian and she’s a REAL dragon. Who’s going to be brave enough to read a book? If you love dragons, also see Do Not Bring Your Dragon to the Library, words by Julie Gassmanand and pictures by Andy Elkerton which has library etiquette 101 delivered with humor and rhymes. 

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If You Want to Bring a Circus to the Library 

Words and Pictures by Elise Parsley

Part of the Magnolia Says Don’t series

Magnolia takes the “You Can Do Anything at the Library” sign literally and sets up her own big top. Loud and proud, Magnolia learns what not to do in this cautionary tale about library etiquette.

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Lola at the Library

Words by Anna McQuinn

Pictures by Rosalind Beardshaw

Picture Book Ages 2 – 5

Great for introducing toddlers and preschoolers to the local library. Also see Lola Loves Stories

Tomas and the Library Lady

Words by Pat Mora

Pictures by Raul Colon

Picture Book Memoir Ages 4 – 8

The true story of Tomas, from a family of migrant farm workers, who learns to love reading and books from his mentor a local librarian. Tomas grew up to be the first minority Chancellor in the University of California. See also, Abe Lincoln:The Boy Who Loved Books by Kate Winters.

 

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Chapter Book Ages 8 – 12
Part 1 of a Series
A library that’s a locked room puzzle. Mr. Lemoncello is a game maker extraordinaire and he designed the new library! To celebrate the opening of the library, there’s going to be an overnight lock-in at the library. Kyle and friends are on a quest to escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s library.

More ways to celebrate National Library Week, if you like this Booklist about Libraries for Shared Reading with Children, then see our Book Review: The Invisible Library Series

Share your favorite library story or book about libraries here

Booklist: If You Like Peter Rabbit… Bunny Books for Shared Reading with Children

If You Like Peter Rabbit…

Booklist: Bunny Books for Shared Reading with Children

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When I first heard of the 2018 live action movie of Peter Rabbit, I must admit to being worried, because I adore Beatrix Potter’s detailed and delightful watercolor illustrations. Peter Rabbit, himself is also an irrepressible trickster with that balance of naughty and nice that makes him so lovable. Of course, ending one’s adventures or rather misadventures with a soothing cup of chamomile tea is a perfect precedent to continue.  Whatever your thoughts on the movie, take time to read the original inspiration as well as some of Miss Potter’s other works.

 

For more about the author/illustrator Beatrix Potter see the 2006 PG movie Miss Potter https://www.commonsensemedia.org/movie-reviews/miss-potter

 

Before Shared Reading: Establish a Reading Routine

A reading routine can be soothing for children and help them focus on the story. Examples of routines include time and place of shared reading – before bedtime and in bed or a comfy chair. Include in your routine a way to introduce the book which includes highlighting the title, author, illustrator, and some story clues (blurbs from the back or dust cover flaps of books). This routine will help your child by building anticipation as well as listening skills.

 

During Shared Reading

Make the reading relevant to your child, by pointing specific character traits and behaviors. The lead characters in this booklist are all rabbits that act like people in both positive and negative ways. In folklore, rabbits often take on the role of the trickster, a clever character who can circumvent typical behaviors for their own positive outcome, for example, Uncle Remus’ Brer Rabbit or even Bugs Bunny. While reading, highlight naughty or nice behaviors that fits the rabbit  in the story into the trickster role.

 

After Shared Reading

Children often enjoy characters that they can relate to, even if they are being naughty, such as Mo Willem’s Pigeon who whines and wheedles in order to get his way. Talk about what your child likes or doesn’t like about the behaviors of the rabbit character. Are they relevant to your child? Is the rabbit a good or bad model of behavior? Would they want to be friends with a person or character with similar behaviors.

 

Depending on the dialog and action, use homemade (finger, stick, or sock) puppets or even stuffed plush toys to dramatize favorite scenes from the books. Reenacting the story plot helps build reading comprehension skills.

 

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If You Like Peter Rabbit…

Booklist: Bunny Books for Shared Reading with Children

 

White Rabbit’s Color Book

Words and Pictures by Alan Baker

Board Books Infants and Toddlers

White rabbit experiments with the paint pots and has a colorful adventure. If you find a paperback or hardback edition read that edition as the detailed full page spreads are easier to view. Also see by the same author/illustrator, Black and White Rabbit’s ABC

 

Mr. Rabbit and the Lovely Present

Words by Charlotte Zolotow

Pictures by Maurice Sendak

Caldecott Honor Book

Mr Rabbit helps a little girl find a present for her mother who loves colorful things.

 

If You Plant a Seed

Words and Pictures by Kadir Nelson

Picture Book Ages 4 – 8

Rabbit and mouse plant a garden and wait patiently for harvest, however, when it’s time to gather their carrots and cabbages unexpected visitors arrive. Gorgeous paintings by an award winner illustrator paired with a lovely story about friendship and cooperation.

 

Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale

 

Knuffle Bunny Too: A Case of Mistaken Identity

Knuffle Bunny Free: An Unexpected Diversion

Words and Pictures by Mo Willems

Picture Books Ages 2 – 6

Knuffle Bunny Caldecott Medal

The adventures of Trixie and her cuddle buddy, Knuffle Bunny, from toddlerhood through preschool years will delight your family. Include The Velveteen Rabbit, words by Margery Williams and pictures by William Nicholson, during a reading session to extend the theme of rabbit shaped toy friends.

 

Bunny Cakes

Words and Pictures by Rosemary Wells

Picture Book Ages 2- 6 Part of the Max and Ruby series

Max wants to make grandma a cake with worms, but bossy Ruby wants to make an angel cake with icing. Which sibling will be in charge of the baking in the kitchen?

 

The Little Rabbit Who Lost Her Hop

Words and Pictures by Jedda Robaard

Board Book Ages 2 – 4

On the way to a party, little rabbit loses her hop – how will she get to her family’s celebration? Let children lift the flaps to see how she will get to the party on time.

 

Watership Down

Richard Addams

Fiction Fantasy

The classic tale of rabbits in search of a new home due to building on their former field. This would also be a good audiobook to listen to on a road trip. You might want to introduce younger children to the plot by viewing the animated adaptation from 1978, for more on the movie, see  https://www.commonsensemedia.org/movie-reviews/watership-down 

 

 

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The Tale of Hill Top Farm

Susan Wittig Albert

First in the Cottage Tales of Beatrix Potter series

Fiction Cozy Mystery/Fantasy

Including real people and locations, this cozy mystery series brings a lighthearted look at the complexity of village life including the point of view and side stories of the animal inhabitants. Grown-up fiction which is approachable for older elementary and middle school readers.

 

So, what do you think? Peter Rabbit — movie or book? Share your thoughts below.

 

Booklist: Worms on the Sidewalk, Books for Shared Reading

Booklist: Worms on the Sidewalk, Books for Shared Reading

Ground Hog Day’s Punxsutawney Phil may get the notoriety for heralding the onset of spring, but to me the surest sign of spring is worms on the sidewalk.  My mother is a gardener, so I grew up respecting worms and using gardening gloves to move them from the sidewalk to soil.

My favorite worm book is Diary of a Worm by Doreen Cronin with pictures by Harry Bliss. This book inspired son #2’s summer project of a DIY worm composting bin. Due to only having a small patio, we couldn’t winterize the worms and set them free in the fall in time for their dormant stage. The azalea bush is still grateful. When granddaughter #1 is ready, I will probably pair that book reading with the nonfiction book We Dig Worms! — words and pictures by Kevin McCloskey — because they share the same cartoon style illustrations. Bonus: both authors are from Pennsylvania where we live.

 

Before Shared Reading: Set the Stage

Select a good time, these books are perfect to read during a rainy day.  Get comfortable and cozy; proximity is important because in a shared reading experience you want everyone to be able to see all the pictures and the words. The book should be within reaching distance so your child can help turn the pages (when appropriate by skill and age).

Point out the names of the author and illustrator on the book cover. This will build the concept that books are created by people and will subtly reinforce your own child’s agency in creating pictures and stories.

 

During Shared Reading: Be Dramatic and Go for an Encore

It’s time to let your inner Oscar, Emmy, Tony or Golden Globe out. Use funny voices and encourage your child to add in sound effects.

During the first couple of read throughs you might want to stick to the main text. For repeated readings take time to explore the dialog balloons or side text boxes; move your along the words to show that you where your are on the page. Ask questions (who, what, where, why, & how) to check your child’s comprehension for the plot and character or factual information.

 

After Shared Reading: Engage in Activities

Find a few worms to observe in a jar with local soil (potting soil may not have enough compost nutrients for them) for a couple of days. Feed them small bits of compost material (for example: leftover vegetable leaves) and lightly spray the soil with water.  Also, make a wrap around sleeve of cardboard for darkness when you aren’t observing them. (See the nonfiction books on earthworms, they don’t have eyes but do have light sensitive cell receptors) Like a any good scientist, encourage your child to take dated field notes (pictures, dictation, bullet points) or like the worm in the book keep a diary for the time you have your wormy guests. Besides observing them, there are a few experiments you can try with your worms. For example, while on a tray place the worm in front of wet paper towel and a dry paper towel, in which direction will your worm move? After a few days, do the capture/release or search & rescue (if you saved them from a wet sidewalk) and set them free because the earth needs worms in the environment.

 

Booklist: Worms on the Sidewalk, Books for Shared Reading

Diary of a Worm

Words by Doreen Cronin and Pictures by Harry Bliss

Picture Book Fiction Ages 4 – 8

With humor and clever cartoons, this book takes you through the day to day life of a young worm. There is also an easy reader spin-off in the I Can Read series that extends your stay in this setting as well as a companion picture book Diary of a Spider.

 

 

Best Lowly Worm Book Ever!

Words and Pictures by Richard Scarry

Picture Book Fiction Ages 3 – 7

Nostalgia for grown-ups and new adventures for children, readers follow Lowly Worm as he rides around in his apple car on a busy day. Plenty of details in the pictures will keep children engaged during re-reads. Huck Scarry completed the book making process for his dad.

 

How to Eat Fried Worms

Thomas Rockwell

Chapter Book Ages 8 – 12

Two boys make a bet that forces one of them to eat a worm each day for 15 days in a row. Lots of dialog makes for a great read aloud. There is a 2006 movie adaptation with a PG rating, for more on the movie see https://www.commonsensemedia.org/movie-reviews/how-to-eat-fried-worms

It’s a Good Thing There Are Earthworms

Words by Jodie Shepherd

Illustrated Book Nonfiction Ages 4 – 8

Basic introduction to earthworms with photographs for up close illustrations.  Also see similar photographic works: Earthworms, by Lisa J. Amstutz; Earthworms, by Nikki Bruno Clapper; Earthworms, by Claire Llewellyn and Barry Watts.

 

Snail and Worm Again!

Words and Pictures by Tina Kügler

Picture Book Fiction Ages 4 – 9

Geisel Honor Winner

Snail and Worm are friends, share three stories about their friendship. The mini-chapters can be read by new readers on their own. There is a previous work with the same duo, Snail & Worm. Also see, Wiggle and Waggle, a beginner chapter book by Caroline Arnold that features the friendship between two worms.

 

The Story of Silk: From Worm Spit to Woven Scarves

Words and Photography by Richard Sobol

Picture Book Nonfiction Ages 6 – 9

The author/photographer shares his trip to a village in Thailand, where all the town’s people including the children work together to produce cloth from silk worms.  Pair this travel story with How to Eat Fried Worms, because there is a photograph of villagers eating boiled silkworms with their lunch, nothing gets wasted in this culture.

 

 

We Dig Worms!

Words and Pictures by Kevin McCloskey

Graphic Novel Nonfiction Ages 5 – 7

School Library Journal’s Top 10 Graphic Novels 2015

Shares facts about worms with a focus on how earthworms aid in plant growth with their tunnels and castings. In the back of the book, the author shares great tips on how to read comics with kids.

 

Wiggling Worms at Work

Words by Wendy Pfeffer 

Pictures by Steve Jenkins

Picture Book Nonfiction Ages 4 – 8

Basic presentation of a worm life cycle and facts with interesting torn paper collage illustrations. Back of the book suggests experiments for observing worms in their environment. For a similar book, see Garden Wigglers: Earthworms in Your Backyard; Words by Nancy Loewen and Pictures by Rick Peterson (Picture Book Nonfiction Ages 4-8)

 

Winnie Finn, Worm Farmer

Words by Carol Brendler

Pictures by Ard Hoyt

Picture Book Fiction Ages 4 – 8

Our spunky heroine, Winnie Finn is on a quest to enter her worm friends in the Quincy County Fair, even if there is no category for worms. See the back of the book for advice on starting a family worm farm.

 

The Worm (Disgusting Critters Series)

Words and Pictures by Elise Gravel

Picture Book Nonfiction, Part of a Series  Ages 6 – 9

With humor, a worm introduces himself to the readers, along with a variety of worm facts.  The cartoon illustrations will pair well in a read along with Diary of a Worm.

 

Worm Weather

Words by Jean Taft

Pictures by Matt Hunt

Picture Book Ages 3 – 5

In rhyming verse, two children play in rain as worms underground raise up to explore the wet ground.

 

Superworm

Words by Julia Donaldson and Pictures by Axel Scheffler

Picture Book Fiction Ages 4 – 8

Superworm saves his friends, the toads, the bees, and the beatles, however, when Superworm is caught by the wicked Lizard wizard, it’s time for Superworm’s friends to save him.

 

Yucky Worms

Words by Vivian French

Pictures by Jessica Ahlberg

Picture Book Fiction Ages 4 – 8

Bridges the gap between a fiction and nonfiction book. While gardening, a grandmother explains to her grandson the importance of worms, so this book provides an overview of worm facts within a gentle setting.

If you like this booklist, then see

Booklist: Spring Books for Shared Reading with Children

Recommend your favorite book with worms here

 

Book Review: Endurance: A Year in Space, A Lifetime of Discovery, Scott Kelly

Book Review: Endurance: A Year in Space, A Lifetime of Discovery, Scott Kelly

 

Nonfiction Memoir: Many people were surprised to read that 7% of astronaut Scott Kelly’s DNA had changed during his year in space. Among the surprised was Scott Kelly himself, who tweeted, “What? My DNA changed by 7%! Who knew? I just learned about it in this article. This could be good news! I no longer have to call @ShuttleCDRKelly my identical twin brother anymore.”

 

Fortunately (or not), Scott and Mark Kelly are still identical twins. The original headlines were misleading, a misunderstanding of early reports from yet unpublished studies comparing the twins during and after Scott Kelly’s year in space. Though his year in space may not have shuffled his DNA, it did provide a compelling backdrop to his memoir. Endurance: A Year in Space, a Lifetime of DIscovery, tells the story of that year. More, it tells the story of a man who challenged the odds and lived out his dreams.

 

Scott Kelly would not have been anyone’s pick to be a success in high school. An indifferent student and occasional troublemaker, he was turned down by most colleges. He credits the change in his life and direction to a book: The Right Stuff by Tom Wolfe. Reading about the first astronauts gave him a life goal: become an astronaut. He transferred to a university where he could participate in Naval ROTC and devoted himself to becoming a student and a Navy pilot.

 

Very often, successful people are portrayed as having been destined for success. Less often do we consider the obstacles and failures that come between us and our dreams. Scott Kelly’s memoir is honest, sometimes painfully so. He barely graduated from high school. His first year of college was so poor that he had to start again as a freshman when he transferred. He occasionally sabotaged his own opportunities by making poor choices, and more than once survived his own foolishness through luck or a timely intervention by a friend or family member rather than through his own efforts. That is not to say he did not deserve the success he achieved. But his story easily could have been one that ended badly, a life of missed opportunities and wasted potential. Most of us would not choose to read that story–but many of us have lived part of it ourselves.

 

After becoming a Navy pilot, Kelly’s career advanced and he was eventually chosen to become a space shuttle pilot. Once the space shuttle program ended, he went on to become part of the International Space Station mission, and in this role participated in a year-long mission along with cosmonaut Mikhail “Misha” Kornienko. The goal of this mission was to study the long-term effects of space on the human body.

 

Eventually, humans are likely to explore the solar system through manned missions. Even a mission to our closest planetary neighbor, Mars, would take more than a year in space before arriving. Given the changes human bodies experience during shorter times in space, it is still an unanswered question how well people would be able to function upon arriving at Mars. Kelly and Kornienko have proven that humans could survive a journey that long and could re-acclimate to gravity at the end of the trip. What remains uncertain still are the long-term effects of the journey. Hopefully the ongoing studies of these two men and others will prepare us for the next stage in human exploration.

Other Works Mentioned in Endurance: A Year in Space, A Lifetime of Discovery

The Right Stuff

Tom Wolfe

Nonfiction

Covers the early period of the US space program, Project Mercury, the first operational manned space flight program based on interviews with astronauts, their wives, test pilots, and other key personnel.

In 1983, a PG movie adaptation was made that won 4 Oscars. For more on the movie adaptation see the review on https://www.commonsensemedia.org/movie-reviews/the-right-stuff

Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage

Alfred Lansing

Nonfiction

The story of leadership and teamwork necessary to survive the crossing of Antarctica in 1915 by explorer Ernest Shackleton and his 27 men. Lancing used survivor interviews and personal diaries to create this account. Scott Kelly took a his copy of Endurance to the space station.

Gravity

A  2003 science fiction thriller rated PG-13 which won 7 Oscars and another 232 other awards or accolades. A dramatic story of two astronauts stranded in space. For more on this movie see the review on https://www.commonsensemedia.org/movie-reviews/gravity

The Martian

Andy Weir

Science Fiction

Assumed dead and abandoned, Mark Watney must find a way to let Earth know that he is still alive and find a way to survive until rescue. For more information on the book see the review on https://www.commonsensemedia.org/book-reviews/the-martian

For more on the 2015 PG-13 movie adaptation which won Golden Globe awards for best picture and best actor, see the review on https://www.commonsensemedia.org/movie-reviews/the-martian

If you are going to have an astronaut movie marathon, it won’t be complete without the classic  Apollo 13 which won 2 Oscars and numerous other awards. Based on the true true story of NASA’s persistence and determination,  “Failure is not an option” to bring three astronauts back to earth after an accidental oxygen tank explosion on the way to the moon. For more on this movie see the review on https://www.commonsensemedia.org/movie-reviews/apollo-13

 

Share your favorite book or movie about astronauts or space here 

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Book Review: Political Tribes: Group Instinct and the Fate of Nations, Amy Chua

Book Review Nonfiction: Political Tribes: Group Instinct and the Fate of Nations, Amy Chua

 

 

Tribalism is a form of macro-group identification that runs much deeper in the human psyche than we may realize. Humans are hard-wired to belong. Group identification starts in infancy with family bonding, but quickly we start learning who is “us” and who is “them.” Even babies react differently to photos of strangers depending on the ethnicity of the subjects; photos of people that “look” like the ethnic group the baby is from are generally received more positively by the baby. As we grow, other tribal identifiers become important: language, dress, religion, accent. Although we Americans live in a multiethnic society, these innate needs to belong to a group are no less important to us. Ignoring their existence can lead us to misinterpret the world we live in, and can create tensions and conflicts that could be avoided with a little more awareness.

 

Americans tend to ignore the power of tribalism. We do this at our peril, and to our disadvantage in both national and international politics. Amy Chua diagnoses this often wilful ignorance in her book Political Tribes, and shows numerous specific examples of how the failure to account for tribal behavior has hurt us.

 

We seldom think about tribalism within America, and indeed, Chua describes America as being unique in creating a tribe of its own, one that supersedes typical tribal delineators of ethnicity, religion, economics, language, etc. Within this super tribe, though, are also harbingers of new tribes forming. The 2016 election was possibly a foretaste of tribal fracturing; coastal elites were surprised by the collective electoral power wielded by less affluent whites from the midwest and south. The growing multiethnicity of America may also harden those tribal differences, as the increasing population of Asian and Hispanic residents diminishes the relative power of poor and middle class whites.

 

Many of Chua’s examples come from recent foreign policy mistakes. America learned some of the wrong lessons from her successes rebuilding Germany and Japan after World War II. Both of those countries were largely homogeneous, essentially comprised of one tribe of people. Japan had long been that way. Though there are minorities in Japan, they are very small in number compared to the predominate Japanese people and do not factor largely in political or economic decision making. Germany’s single tribe was created through violence and ethnic cleansing: the Holocaust and purging of ethnic minorities under the Nazi regime. The end result for both countries was an internal unity that, even in defeat, created an environment amenable to democratic reforms. Thus the rapid democratization and economic growth seen after World War II was in no small measure a result of the already unified and largely homogenous populations of those countries.

 

Vietnam may have been America’s first and greatest military defeat, but before the military defeat was a failure to understand the tribal dynamics of the country. Vietnam was far from the unified population found in Japan or Germany. Not only were there numerous people groups native to the peninsula, but there were centuries of interaction with China along with a significant minority of ethnic Chinese within the country. This minority held disproportionate power, especially economically. This power imbalance led to resentment and mistrust, and when first the French and later the US took the side of the hated elites, popular resistance and opposition was assured. Chua’s analysis is that the Cold War backdrop that featured so prominently in American planning and understanding of the war and the entire context in Vietnam masked the real situation: the Vietnamese people were tribally motivated to assert their independence from their Chinese minority, and far from being interested in the Communist/Capitalist battle for the world they were completely focused on asserting their own will within their own borders.

 

More recently, both Iraq and Afghanistan have occupied American attention and have been occupied by American troops for almost two decades. Both have eluded resolution through military and political measures, through Republican and Democratic administrations. And both countries are highly tribal. Shia and Sunni and Kurd tribes in Iraq have been rivals for centuries, separated by both religious differences and competing economic interests. Multiple tribes inhabit the land of Afghanistan, but the ethnic Pashtuns have dominated both government and economic spheres for generations. This has led to resentment and conflict between the differing tribes, often resulting in bloodshed. Into this morass of tribal rivalries and ethnic hostility within the countries America sent troops, usually without knowledge of the history or traditions that ran deeper than any political structures. Without that key local knowledge, that understanding of tribal passions and historical animus, Americans often deepened rifts and created or exacerbated hostilities that perhaps could have been avoided with a deeper understanding of the tribal divisions that predated their arrival.

 

Chua warns that no tribe easily or willingly lets go of power, influence, or wealth. If we continue to ignore the power of tribalism, we may find ourselves consumed by its power within our own borders.

American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures in North America

Colin Woodard

Nonfiction

For a different perspective on internal cultural differences within the United States, Colin Woodard’s book American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures in North America is IMO (in my opinion) a more hopeful look at both what separates us as a country and what binds us together. Woodard identifies ethnic and cultural heritages that continue to echo and shape us, both making us one nation and making us distinct peoples within that nation. Woodard observes that many of these regional differences carry influence even upon newcomers and immigrants: in many ways Vietnamese immigrants to Houston will, within a generation, be more similar to other Texans than they will be to people who may share their lineage but settled in California instead. Although there are concerns about what divides these nations, there is also great encouragement that the power of American ideals and ideas continues to unite people who choose to settle here.

Political Tribes: Group Instinct and the Fate of Nations

 

If you are interested in political policy also see

Book Review Nonfiction: Nudge: Improving Decisions about Health, Wealth, and Happiness, Richard H. Thaler and Cass R. Sunstein

What tribe or tribes do you belong to? If you belong to multiple tribes, which tribe do you associate with the most? How does a macro-groupthink dynamic influence your everyday choices? Share your thoughts here