Why are Orangutans Orange? by Mick O’Hare (Brief Thoughts)

Why are Orangutans Orange? edited by Mick O’Hare (Pegasus Books, 2012) is subtitled “Science questions in pictures.”  I am not a science person, but I was intrigued by the premise that this would be a simple and quick collection of answers to common science questions.

In the end, I was a bit disappointed. Although it did provide simple and clear answers for the most part, it was not organized well and felt a bit smacked together. I was surprised to find that it was a collection of questions based on pictures sent in by readers of a column. Many had poor quality photographs attached to their questions too. The answers came from scientists who read the column. Thus, each “answer” was written by someone different. The questions likewise were random and disorganized.

While it was a quick read and somewhat interesting, the random organization and miscellaneous feel to the questions and answers did not make it something I highly enjoyed. I’m glad I read it, because it did not require much for me, but I am not overly interested in seeking out more volumes in the series of science questions and answers.

Note: I read a digital review copy from the publisher for review consideration via netgalley.com

Dead Souls by Nikolai Gogol

In early nineteenth century Russia, one’s status is decided based on how many enslaved workers (serfs) under your name. Likewise, property owners do not pay taxes on the land own but rather on the number of serfs assigned to them at the last census. Even if a serf dies, a property owner must pay taxes on him or her until the next census rights it. In Dead Souls, Chichikov is an up-and-coming middle class man who has cleverly decided on a get rich quick scheme: buy dead serfs (called “souls”) from property owners to use as collateral in purchasing things for himself.

Dead Souls by Nikolai Gogol (published 1842) is a complex satire. And yet, supposedly Gogol did not intend it to be a satire. In all seriousness, he wrote that this part of the novel (part 1 was the only part he completed; part 2 was unfinished and part 3 never begun) was representative of Dante’s Inferno. This is, to me, a stretch, but I can see it. With the humor in the text, however, I saw Dead Souls as far more than a look at the depredation of man’s soul in post 1812 Russia. I saw it as an amusing satire of Russian society in general.

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“Zola” by E.A. Robinson

I am working on a different project today, but I came across this amazing poem by E.A. Robinson (1869-1935), who won more than one Pulitzer Prize in poetry. It’s called “Zola,” and it so perfectly captures why I disliked Germinal at the same time I absolutely loved it. If you’ve read any Zola before, you have to read this poem. If you want to read Zola, same thing.

Even if you’ve never read Zola before, what do you think of this poem? Does it capture your thoughts about any novel or author you’ve ever read?

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Reading Magic by Mem Fox

Mem Fox is a successful children’s book author and literacy expert. But her expertise in Reading Magic (Harcourt 2001) comes across as personal and passionate, mostly because she writes foremost from her position as a mother. Her main point in writing this book is to read aloud to our children, making it a fun time and a game, as parents let their children learn from the words that surround them in their daily lives.

I loved reading this book. Nothing Ms Fox said was surprising or new to me. Back in 2009, I started a project to read my then 26-month-old son 1000 books before he started kindergarten. Just over 18 months later, we’d read 1000 different books together (that I’d recorded, at least) and he was reading on his own. Everything Ms Fox suggests is thus backed up by our application of it! It was not a struggle. It was fun. Continue Reading