‘Wild Rituals: 10 Lessons Animals Can Teach us about Connection, Community, and Ourselves’ by Caitlin O’Connell

Caitlin O’Connell knows a lot about animals. She spent decades studying animals in their native habitats from the Pacific Ocean to the African savannah. She specializes in elephants, and this is just the latest of her many nonfiction books about these majestic animals. But while “Wild Rituals: 10 Lessons Animals Can Teach Us about Connection, Community, and Ourselves” does include elephant rituals, she also includes the rituals of diverse animals from flamingoes and other birds to Galapagos tortoises and African lions. Even her dog, Frodo, is included in the discussion.

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‘The Particulars of Peter’ by Kelly Conaboy is the book you didn’t know you needed to read

Kelly Conaboy loves her dog. She loves her dog Peter so much that she wrote a book, “The Particulars of Peter: Dance Lessons, DNA Tests, and Other Excuses to Hang Out with My Perfect Dog,” about him. Like most of us canine fans, she loves her dog to distraction. She obsesses about her dog more than most of us, and she writes about Peter in a humorous and touching manner that few of us could match. Continue reading

‘They Called Us Enemy’ by George Takei is a graphic memoir that brings home the horror of racism and judging people by their race and is a must-read for teenager readers

I’ve read about the internment camps for Japanese Americans during WWII, and there are many historical fiction books for children that are set in those camps (see some listed at the end of this review), but George Takei’s powerful memoir instilled in me a broader sense of what this country was like when this atrocity was implemented — taking away the property and rights of American citizens because of their ancestry and separating them from their homes. Continue reading

‘The Backyard Birdwatcher’s Bible: Birds, Behaviors, Habitats, Identification, Art Other Home Crafts’ gives you a plethora of information about birds

“The Backyard Birdwatcher’s Bible” is much more than a book about birds. In it you will find “The History of Birds,” “Practical Birdwatching & Identification,” “Understanding & Attracting Birds,” and “Bird-Friendly Gardens & Bird-Inspired Art.” It’s an all-encompassing work that is as beautiful to look at as it is useful for birding tips. The fact is that many experts wrote and edited it, including Paul Sterry, Christoper Perrins, Sonya Patel Ellis and Dominic Couzens, ornithologists, nature writers, photographers — and this precious book is the result of their collaboration.

There are four chapters, but it’s the first chapter that many will want to peruse. That’s the chapter that includes over 100 pages of species profiles with information about different birds, how to identify them, their habitats, their diets and their status. I learned that the red-bellied woodpecker that frequents my bird feeders lives throughout the eastern half of the USA. I know from experience that, as the book states, “it is an opportunistic feeder, taking a wide range of invertebrates, seeds, and nuts, also fruits (it drinks from oranges) and sap.” Mine also love suet. There are photos of both the male and female woodpecker and a map showing their range.

In the second chapter, “Birdwatching for beginners,” there is much information about the life of a bird from the hatchling to behavior. There are pages about the song of birds, territories and nests and eggs. There is information about birdwatching and how to best do it.

The third chapter is on attracting birds. The detail in the text is incredible. Want to learn about how to have a bird-friendly backyard? On page 266, there is detailed information from references to information on forage and feed pages and breeding shelters that can be found elsewhere in the book to information about flowers and shrubbery to plant in order to entice the winged visitors to stay.

And the fourth chapter is unusual for a bird bible; it’s all birds in art, historical art with birds, and modern art — it’s interesting, and the photographs, like the photos elsewhere in the book, are beautiful. From Audubon to Taiichiro Yoshida, who creates delicate metal work to create bird images, the art is inspiring.

The detailed index at the back helps find specific information, and the section with additional information is perfect for those looking for more specific information about birds and birdwatching.

This is a book you will come back to over and over for the facts. It’s a book that is so lovely, it could grace your coffee table. It would also be a terrific gift for a birdwatching friend.

Please note: This review is based on the final, hardcover book provided by Abrams, the publisher, for review purposes.

Agent Sonya: Master Spy

 

We love our heroes; we despise our villains. What, then, do we make of Colonel Ursula Kuczynski, AKA Ursula Hamburger, AKA Ursula Burton, AKA — Agent Sonya?  “Agent Sonya,” author Ben Macintyre’s exhaustively detailed and consistently fascinating account of that amazing woman’s life, may force us to realign our predilection for clearly delineated hero-versus-villain judgments. Continue reading

Hopes, Dreams, Truths, and Real Christianity

Jon Meacham’s “His Truth Is Marching On; John Lewis and the Power of Hope,” is a stunningly powerful account of the life and career of John Lewis. Most often, when we describe events or behaviors as “shocking,” we are almost automatically communicating negativity: “… the shocking duplicity of this man,” or “the shocking cruelty of bigots.” But in the case of Meacham’s work, “shocking” carries many meanings and connotations that take us far beyond those negative implications of the word. It is, of course, an undeniable, all-too-obvious truth that 1960s Civil Rights workers like Lewis were cruelly abused physically and verbally, beaten to within inches of their lives, smashed viciously with clubs and truncheons, kicked mercilessly while lying semi-conscious on the blood-spattered ground, and generally treated like invading monsters from Hell. And to read the disgusting details of these acts of inhumanity is, indeed, shocking, even though we’ve seen and heard evidence of those brutal attacks before. Continue reading