Readers who have an unreasonable fear of insects should steer clear of the science thriller The Colony by A.J. Colucci. Others who might enjoy a tale of science gone mad, featuring man-eating ants who rise up and take over Manhattan, are in for the thrill ride of the year. A disgruntled scientist heads to Central Park with an ant queen, determined to make the world pay for past wrongs. But Cleopatra is no ordinary queen. She is a Siafu Moto. Nearly an inch longer than ordinary ants, the Siafu Moto has an exoskeleton that is highly resistant to all known pesticides. They also have poison sacs filled with neurotoxins that are meant to paralyze their prey. One bite from one ant could hardly knock down a mammal the size of a human, but human rarely encounter just one ant. They crawl up walls and drop from ceilings, surrounding their prey, stripping their flesh, and leaving an empty husk. Something needs to be done, so a well-known entomologist with a specialty in ants is called in. But even Paul O’Keefe is baffled on how to stop this growing colony, so he sends a military helicopter to pick up some back up--his ex-wife Kendra, who is currently studying fire ants in the desert.
A.J. Colucci writes a tight story for readers who enjoy a creature feature. The Colony is reminiscent of a B-movie, and although the ants in this novel don’t tower over your head, they are no less deadly. The novel is fast paced, has great action sequences and is a lot of fun to read. Be forewarned: read The Colony and you’ll be scrambling away the next time you see an ant on your picnic blanket!
Two intriguing new books tackle science, inventions, and diagrams, and are perfect for armchair scientists looking to learn a little more about those things that made the world what it is today. 100 Diagrams That Changed the World: From the Earliest Cave Paintings to the Innovation of the iPod by Scott Christianson takes on the world of diagrams and explores their value to society. Some significant diagrams stand on their own, such as the Rosetta Stone, but many are actual drawings or plans of something tangible, like the cotton gin. Each double-page spread of this interesting and quick read shares a different diagram that impacted the world profoundly. Christanson arranges the diagrams chronologically starting with the Chavet Cave Drawings and ending with the iPod. All the diagrams in between are clearly illustrated and accompanied by text containing information about the development and significance of that diagram. Readers will be instantly drawn in by these diagrams that transformed the shape of the world and impacted not only science, but culture and history as well.
Mad Science: Einstein’s Fridge, Dewar’s Flask, Mach’s Speed, and 362 Other Inventions That Made Our World, edited by Randy Alfred, offers a day-by-day calendar of science and technology tidbits from Wired Magazine’s popular This Day in Tech blog. Entries from forty contributors serve to highlight the each episode, discussing its history and value and sharing other notable events from the same day. From the Gregorian calendar, the breathalyzer, and the ballpoint pen, to the first coin operated café (the Horn & Hardart Automat in Philadelphia), the inventions are intriguing, entertaining, and momentous. Equal opportunity is afforded to all scientific fields, so there really is something for everyone, even those who absolutely dreaded high school science.
The most prestigious awards for children's literature will be announced by the American Library Association at the Midwinter meeting in Seattle next Monday. A longstanding tradition of fans of literature for young people is guessing which titles will receive these prizes, which guarantee a sort of immortality for the books. "Honor" books, or runners-up, will also be announced for each category. The Randolph Caldecott Medal goes to the illustrator of the most distinguished American picture book for children. The previous year has seen a bevy of potential, worthy titles for the Caldecott Medal, among them three books by Philip and Erin Stead (who won a Caldecott Medal in 2011). Philip has two strong candidates in two sweet animal stories, A Home for Bird and Bear Has a Story to Tell, while Erin's homage to the end of winter And Then It's Spring could be named. More strong possibilities are Green by Laura Vaccaro Seeger, which covers the many shades of the verdant world; Paul Zelinsky's wacky alphabet book Z Is For Moose; and Step Gently Out, featuring close-up pictures of the insect world taken by Rick Lieber. It could receive the first Caldecott Medal given for photography. These, and many others, could win the big prize or be recognized as an honor book, in a wide open field.
The John Newbery Award goes to the "most distinguished contribution to American literature for children". Last year also brought a number of worthy and likely candidates, including two recent medalists. Local author Laura Amy Schlitz is once again a front runner with Splendors and Glooms, a glimpse inside the world of puppetry, while Rebecca Stead could take a prize for the artful and concise Liar and Spy. Katherine Applegate's tale of a lonely, long-suffering gorilla, The One and Only Ivan, receives a lot of mentions, as does R.A. Palacio's popular (too popular?) Wonder, the story of a boy with a facial deformity. In a strong year for nonfiction, Philip Hoose's Moonbird: a Year on the Wind with the Great Survivor B95, Steve Sheinkin's Bomb: the Race to Build and Steal the World's Most Dangerous Weapon, Deborah Hopkinson's Titanic: Voices from the Disaster, and We've Got a Job: the 1963 Birmingham Children's March by Cynthia Levinson all have reasonable hopes to receive notice from the committee. Stay tuned until Monday at 11:00am ET, when you can watch all of the awards given live from Seattle.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the publication of Peggy Parish’s Amelia Bedelia, the first book in Parish’s series about the literal-minded housekeeper whose misadventures have entertained young readers since 1963. As she starts her 50th year, Amelia Bedelia has some big news! She is going to star in her own line of chapter books for new readers. The first two books of Herman Parish’s (Peggy's nephew) new chapter book series about young Amelia Bedelia will soon be available. In Amelia Bedelia Means Business, Amelia wants a bike like her new classmate Suzanne’s, but it’s very expensive. Amelia decides to earn the money for the bike herself with hilarious results. Amelia Bedelia’s parents say that she can get a new puppy in Amelia Bedelia Unleashed, so she sets out to find the puppy of her dreams. These new chapter books are a great step up for new readers who are ready for something a little more challenging than the original Amelia Bedelia series.
You can join in the celebration of Amelia Bedelia Day on January 29th by reading your favorite Amelia Bedelia book, or trying one of the crafts and activities on Amelia Bedelia’s birthday website.
Ever wondered what your cat is thinking? Why do they do what they do? It’s All About Me-Ow, written and illustrated by Hudson Talbott, deciphers all those mysteries and more in a hilarious romp through the life of felines. Spot on and laugh-out-loud funny, Buddy, the family’s older, experienced orange tabby takes on the schooling of three new kittens with "A Young Cat’s Guide to the Good Life". From comical explanatory charts, lists of "fabulous feline features", to instructions for making the most appealing face for every situation, Buddy schools the wide-eyed kittens in the rigors of "cat-itude", as well as the proper training of humans. Endlessly amusing, the cat’s antics, interspersed with actual information and a bit of history, will keep readers in stitches. Slyly humorous, the cartoon illustrations in watercolor, colored pencil and ink, charm and disarm as does the worldly Buddy and earnestly ingenuous kittens. This is a purrfectly fun book for all ages.
What to Expect When You’re Expecting Hatchlings: A Guide for Crocodilian Parents (and Curious Kids) is another cleverly humorous picture book, notable as children’s nonfiction. Author Bridget Heos (whose favorite book as a child was Lyle, Lyle Crocodile) blends witty reptilian wisdom with real facts in an easy to read Q & A format and playful conversational tone. Turns out reptile parents have the same concerns as human parents – "where should I lay my eggs?"; "what happens after they hatch?" Hatchlings have questions too, like "when do I eat my first water buffalo?" The colorful anthropomorphic cartoon-style artwork, by Canadian illustrator Stephane Jorisch, adds to the whimsy. Included are a glossary and a list of books for further reading and websites. Readers will also want to check out two similarly amusing titles from the author: What to Expect When You’re Expecting Joeys: A Guide for Marsupial Parents and What to Expect When You’re Expecting Larvae: A Guide for Insect Parents.
The most prestigious awards for children's literature, and literature for teens, will be announced by the American Library Association at the Midwinter meeting in Seattle next Monday. A longstanding tradition of fans of literature for young people is guessing which titles will receive these prizes, which guarantee a sort of immortality for the books. "Honor" books, or runners-up, will also be announced for each category. One of these is the Michael L. Printz Award, given for literary excellence in the field of books published for teens aged 12-18. Some of the top contenders for the Printz Award include Elizabeth Wein's tour de force, Code Name Verity, a historical novel set in the World War II era; Ask the Passengers, by A.S. King, which infuses elements of magical realism into a story of a teen girl coming to terms with her sexuality; Steve Sheinkin's Bomb, an engrossing history of the development of the atomic bomb; and The Fault in Our Stars, John Green's popular novel about two teens with cancer forging a friendship and romance against difficult odds.
Another is the Coretta Scott King awards, given to African-American authors and illustrators for excellence in the field. Front runners for the author award include Newbery Award winner Christopher Paul Curtis' The Mighty Miss Malone, the Depression-era story of a 12-year-old girl's family facing tough times; Pinned, about the first girl on the school's wrestling team, by Sharon Flake; No Crystal Stair, by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson, an autobiographical novel about a famous Harlem bookseller, and Brian F. Walker's look into the pros and cons of scholarship and diversity in Black Boy White School. Kadir Nelson, a previous Coretta Scott King award winner, is again a leading contender in the illustrator category for I Have a Dream, a rendition of Martin Luther King Jr.'s speech at the Lincoln Memorial; E.B. Lewis' haunting illustrations of passive bullying in Each Kindness; Shane W. Evans for We March, also about the March on Washington in 1963; and Fifty Cents and a Dream: Young Booker T. Washington, covering his journey to learn to read and eventually become a scientist, illustrated by Bryan Collier.
Primarily found in Scottish and Irish folklore, Selkies are seals who have shed their skin to reveal an enigmatic human form. Australian author Margo Lanagan makes the Selkie myth her own in the transporting novel The Brides of Rollrock Island. The youngest of seven, Misskaella Prout is clearly a different kind of child. Her dying grandmother warns that with her unusual looks, she “harks back” and will be difficult to marry. As she becomes a young woman, Misskaella discovers she has the unique power to draw handsome men and beautiful women from out of the seals that come up on the rocks at the base of the cliff at Crescent Corner.
The men of the remote Rollrock Island are eager to pay a high price for one of sea witch Misskaella’s attractive, eligible women. Obedient, devoted, and servile, they make excellent wives and mothers. But these brides suffer a deep melancholy, as they long to return to the sea and take their true form. The author tells her story from the points of view of five different characters over the course of several decades, and each has been affected in their own way by the introduction of the Selkie wives.
A two-time recipient of the Printz honor medal for excellence in young adult literature, Lanagan is known for her evocative, poetic language and her ability to bring a foreign setting alive through vivid detail. The Brides of Rollrock Island is a standout novel for teens that should find crossover appeal for adults who enjoy a rich, well-crafted story with familiar folkloric roots.
Two delightfully determined women join the ranks of amateur detectives in these wonderful debuts marking the start of two cozy series. Both ladies are used to a little more glitz and glamour, but circumstances have reduced them to investigation while they maintain their senses of humor and careers in the world of fashion. Emma Taylor heads to Paris – Paris, Tennessee that is – in Murder Unmentionable by Meg London. She’s trading in her big city digs, job, and philandering ex-boyfriend to help revitalize her Aunt Arabella’s struggling lingerie boutique, Sweet Nothings. When her pesky cheat of an ex shows up, Emma is surprised, but unmoved. When that same pesky cheat shows up dead on the floor of her boutique, Emma becomes the prime suspect. Emma and her friends are determined to clear her name, but quickly realize that she will need more than silk and satin to keep her out of the big house. Readers will enjoy heading back to Paris, Tennessee again and again in future installments of the Sweet Nothings series to reacquaint themselves with this independent woman and her quirky friends.
Iced Chiffon by Duffy Brown introduces Reagan Summerside, still rebuilding after a nasty divorce left her with one dilapidated house and her expensive wardrobe. She and her Auntie Kiki turn the first floor of her home into a consignment shop called The Prissy Fox. Sales are slow at first, but my how things change when her ex-husband Hollis’ cupcake of a new wife turns up dead! Hollis is quickly the focus of the investigation, and Reagan realizes that he is going to use her home to finance his legal battle. Determined to solve the case, her boutique becomes rumor central as customers share leads while trying on vintage Vuitton. While enjoying this well-constructed mystery, readers will fall in love with the spunky Reagan and her witty asides as she struggles to make her new life work in fabulous Savannah, Georgia.
Pete Townshend’s biography, Who I Am is not only the story of The Who but also a deeply personal memoir. Townshend shares intimate details from his sometimes bleak early childhood, revealing that these years caused him lifelong fears of abandonment. Who I Am also gives a personal view into cultural and historical developments in post-World War II England.
Compared to other rock memoirs, Townshend’s stands out for his lack of bitterness toward other members of The Who. He resists the temptation to disparage his bandmates. Given The Who’s colorful history, no doubt he has countless stories that would entertain readers but may embarrass fellow band members. Because this is such a well-crafted and honest memoir, the absence of descriptions of debauchery is not missed. Readers who prefer their musical biographies to be full of name-dropping gossip will not be disappointed, though. He shares numerous stories about Sixties icons such as Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and Mick Jagger.
Who I Am will be enjoyed by fans of The Who and also readers who are interested in intimate memoirs of artists. Read by Townshend in his distinctly reedy London voice, the audiobook is highly recommended.
Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, and most recently Fukushima have all made names for themselves in the history books, but lesser known is Rocky Flats, a secret nuclear weapons plant in Colorado. In Full Body Burden: Growing Up in the Nuclear Shadow of Rocky Flats, Kristen Iversen draws on her own experiences living in one of the neighborhoods close to the plant and later working there herself. The result is part family memoir and part historical account of Rocky Flats, which was quickly built after World War II. At first, Rocky Flats was seen as a boon to the community, bringing a myriad of jobs and stability to the region. Later, it became known as one of the most contaminated places in the U.S., with high rates of illnesses amongst workers and environmental threats to the surrounding neighborhoods. During its years of operation, several major accidents occurred, including a fire in 1969 that could have turned into a disaster on par with Chernobyl if not for a series of fortuitous actions on the part of plant workers. Activists and residents became increasingly vocal about problems, yet it wasn’t until the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Environmental Protection Agency conducted a joint raid of the plant in 1989 that truths finally came to light.
Iversen does an excellent job weaving together the stories of Rocky Flats and her own family with the common thread of secrecy: much like government and plant officials downplayed gross negligence and destructive environmental practices, her parents hid problems in their own home, including alcoholism and financial hardships. She also skillfully charts both her family’s history and Rocky Flat’s legacy to bittersweet conclusions, posing a question still being contemplated today: Are we living under the protection of the bomb, or under its shadow? Readers who enjoy narrative science books like The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, disfunctional family memoirs like The Glass Castle, or environmental justice accounts like A Civil Action will all find reason to be intrigued with this book.