Friday, February 17, 2017

The Astronaut Instruction Manual - an audiobook review

The Astronaut Instruction Manual: Practical Skills for Future Space Explorers
by Mike Mongo, read by Mike Mongo with foreword by Alyssa Carson
Listening Library, 2017
47 minutes

If you'd read my blog for any length of time, you will know that I'm an avid fan of several things - two of them are nonfiction and outer space.  I was happy for the opportunity to review the audiobook version of The Astronaut Instruction Manual.

Mike Mongo narrates his own book with an infectious enthusiasm for his topic guaranteed to draw you in to this practical and inspirational look at the future of space travel.

The Astronaut Instruction Manual began as a book on Inkshares, basically a "Kickstarter" for self-published books.  Largely do to its author's subject knowledge and enthusiasm, it became a popular seller, hence the recent release of the audiobook version.  According to the Hollywood Reporter, there is also a television series in the works.

My complete review of The Astronaut Instruction Manual may be found in AudioFile Magazine, in print and online at this link [http://www.audiofilemagazine.com/reviews/read/121233/the-astronaut-instruction-manual-by-mike-mongo/].


Friday, February 10, 2017

Scratch Coding Cards - a review

Scratch Coding Cards
No Starch Press
Creative Coding Activities for Kids by Natalie Rusk
 December 2016, 75 cards ISBN: 978-1-59327-774-1 Full Color, Box Set

No Starch Press was kind enough to provide me a review copy of their new Scratch Coding Cards.  The set of 75 cards contains instructions for a variety of projects including games, stories, and the creation of virtual pets.  Each card shows the desired project on the front and simple instructions on the back.  They are large and sturdy and would be perfect for classroom use.  While the cards can be used as definitive instructions for particular projects, their true purpose is to be inspirational and instructive for the creation of personalized projects.  Scratch teaches kids (and adults) to think logically and act creatively.  With time and practice, you can create almost anything with Scratch.  It's a great precursor to other coding languages.

To illustrate, I used the basic instructions on the cards to create a small sampling of things that can be designed with Scratch.  To begin, click the green flag below. (Turn on your sound) If the project does not appear in your browser, you can use this link:
[https://scratch.mit.edu/projects/142996255/]

Monday, January 30, 2017

The Queen of Frogs - a review

The Queen of Frogs

by Davide Cali with illustrations by Marco Soma
Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, 2017


If you have seen the popular South African movie, The Gods Must Be Crazy (1980, 20th Century Fox), then you will understand the premise of this delightfully illustrated cautionary tale of a colony of frogs who suddenly discover a crown. If you have not, I will suggest that queen in question has the desire and ambition of "Yertle the Turtle" (from Yertle the Turtle and Other Stories) and the clueless bravado of the infamous emperor in "The Emperor's New Clothes." Turnabout is fair play is exhibited in the book's humorous ending with a twist.

The illustrations appear to be a combination of pencil sketches painted with the muted earth tones of a frog bog. The anthropomorphic frogs cavort with great expression. Humorous details include frogs fishing with spools of thread for reels and a Venus Flytraps as bait. The frogs fish up, of course, as the target catch are flies! A bottle cap can also be spotted as the official seal on the the royal spokesman's podium.

The Queen of Frogs was first published in Portugal. My copy was courtesy of LibraryThing's Early Reviewers Program. I highly recommend it as a read-aloud for older listeners or a read alone for elementary school students.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Sachiko - an audiobook review


Sachiko: A Nagasaki Bomb Survivor's Story
by Caren Stelson
Read by Katherine Fenton and John Chancer
Dreamscape Media, 2016

The survivors of the Nagasaki and Hiroshima bombings are known as "hibakusha" in Japan. As with all combatants and victims of WWII, their numbers are dwindling; it is important for their stories to be told.  Sachiko shared her personal story and that of her family with author Caren Stelson.  Despite the horrific circumstances of the bombing, and a lifetime of related hardship, Sachiko remains amazingly positive.  Her story is compelling and Sachiko: A Nagasaki Bomb Survivor's Story contains the historical information that young people may need to put her story in context.  I highly recommend it.

I reviewed Sachiko for AudioFile Magazine.  You can read my entire review here: [http://www.nationalbook.org/nba2016_ypl_stelson_sachiko.html#]

Sachiko was on the National Book Award Longlist for Young People's Literature, 
and has garnered numerous other awards and accolades.