April 20, 2015

Wait till May

This blog will be on hiatus for a few weeks. Look for new posts sometime in May (or possibly June).

April 17, 2015

The history of law enforcement

Behind the Badge: Crimefighters Through History
by Ed Butts

Who maintained law and order in ancient civilizations? Who were the first police officers? How were criminals punished? Soldiers, magistrates, slaves, gardeners, even ex-convicts all served as law enforcers at one time or another. Action-packed pictures and a dramatic tone bring the history of policing to light. From Japanese samurai to the first policewomen, to bad cops and secret police, Behind the Badge takes a riveting look at police around the world and how they serve and protect their citizens.

Bodyguards! From Gladiators to the Secret Service
by Ed Butts

Bodyguards have been around since the time of the Egyptian pharoahs (1570 BCE). This fast-paced and excellent book takes a fascinating look at bodyguards throughout the world and how they have or have not protected their charges. Kids will be enthralled at the stories of ambushes, sabotage, and assassinations, and the wily bodyguards that stood in the way. They'll also thrill at encountering the African Minos, female warriors skilled in the use of guns, clubs, spears, swords, and arrows. They're on a par with the British suffragettes, who were trained in the art of jujutsu.

Definitely movie-worthy material, this is a highly recommended read.

April 15, 2015

World's most wanted

Outlaws, Spies, and Gangsters: Chasing Notorious Criminals
by Laura Scandiffio

Television crime shows would have viewers believe that crimes can be solved and criminals apprehended in just under an hour. But catching real-life fugitives can take days, months, even years. Above all, it takes patience, perseverance, wits, and stamina as evidenced in the exciting hunts for eight of the world's most wanted:

  • Canada's Mad Trapper, whose outdoor survival skills made him difficult to capture
  • bank robber John Dillinger, who escaped numerous times due to FBI bungling
  • war criminal Adolf Eichmann, whose capture involved a covert operation, ingeniously planned and executed
  • dictator Manuel Noriega, where psychological warfare came into play
  • mole Aldrich Ames, who nearly brought down the CIA
  • computer hacker Vladimer Levin, who siphoned millions from Citibank
  • gang leader Christopher Coke  
  • terrorist Osama bin Laden

Along the way, kids will learn a great deal about the history of crime fighting and the amazing efforts expended to catch these notorious criminals. They'll also enjoy the fast-paced writing and thrilling action. Reluctant readers will be drawn in as well.

April 13, 2015

Black lawman

Bad News for Outlaws: The Remarkable Life of Bass Reeves, Deputy U.S. Marshal
by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson
illustrations by R. Gregory Christie

Beginning with an exciting shootout, young readers will be drawn into the life of Bass Reeves, a deputy marshal who tracked down outlaws in 1875 Oklahoma. Highly intelligent with a strong sense of justice, Reeves kept order to such a degree that outlaws knew their numbers were up as soon as he had their warrants.

Colourful, lively language and bold paintings dramatize an exciting period of the American Old West.

April 10, 2015

Help for sensory avoiders

Learn to Have Fun with Your Senses: The Sensory Avoider's Survival Guide
by John Taylor, PhD

Some children suffer from sensory processing disorder, which cause them to overreact to sound, touch, movement, taste, smell, and vision. Dr. Taylor's self-help guide is written specifically for kids with sensory problems in the hope that they can learn to tolerate what their senses tell them and not overreact to them. His games and activities are designed to desensitize children over time. He explains how to use his book and emphasizes that parents, siblings, caregivers, and occupational therapists must be involved as well. He also includes chapters on eating the right foods, getting enough sleep, and taking care of the body. An extensive list of resources round out the book.

Although I have no experience with sensory processing disorder, I feel this book would be useful for children. The activities Dr. Taylor prescribes sound fun and easily doable, and his overall tone is empathic and encouraging.

April 8, 2015

Talented superheroes!

Tastes Like Music: 17 Quirks of the Brain and Body
by Maria Birmingham
illustrated by Monika Melnychuk

We are all unique and talented people, but some of us have traits and abilities that are quite astounding! Synesthetes can taste music, tetrachromats can see nearly one hundred million colours, people with hyperdontia have lots more teeth, and anosmics have no sense of smell! All these quirks and more are explained in this truly interesting book that illuminates the ways in which our bodies and brains work. 

A kid-friendly, accessible book; wonder-filled and remarkable.

April 6, 2015

Strange behaviour

You Just Can't Help It! Your Guide to the Wild and Wacky World of Human Behavior 
by Jeff  Szpirglas 

An amusing look at human behaviour: how we sense the world around us, how our emotions affect the way we act, how we communicate, and how we interact with others. However, since the described behaviours are mainly involuntary, they can't really be described as wacky. Szpirglas doesn't delve into truly puzzling things like why people like to gather at the top or bottom of a staircase or escalator, why some people are afflicted with uptalk, why everyone streams through one door instead of using all available doors, and why Elton John has a creepy smile. 

The book's design is definitely wacky (in a good way), with lots of pictures, colours, fonts, and text boxes. Kids will enjoy the scientific experiments, one of which is appealingly disgusting.

April 3, 2015

Real-life apocalypse

An American Plague: The True and Terrifying Story of the Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1793
by Jim Murphy

Jim Murphy recreates a frightening period of American history when a yellow fever epidemic nearly shut down the city of Philadelphia. As the epidemic spread, people began to leave. Even president Washington fled the city, along with businessmen, governors, shop owners and doctors. The delivery of goods, services and food were severely disrupted, rents increased as well as evictions, and there was rioting and looting. If not for the sacrifice of the Free African Society, many more Philadelphians would have died. 

Riveting and dramatic, Murphy's well-written and well-researched novel bring the events vividly to life, making for a thoroughly engrossing read. An excellent book.

April 1, 2015

Killer epidemics

Patient Zero: Solving the Mysteries of Deadly Epidemics
by Marilee Peters

Part mystery, part horror, these are stories of seven epidemics that decimated populations at various moments throughout history. The book focuses on the early epidemiologists who desperately searched for Patient Zero, the first person to contract and spread each disease. The diseases covered are: bubonic plague in London in 1665, cholera in Soho (London) in 1854, yellow fever in Cuba in 1900, typhoid in New York in 1906, the Spanish Influenza pandemic (1918-19), Ebola in Zaire in 1976, and AIDS in the United States in 1980.

Gruesome details will draw readers in, as will the medical sleuthing, which is clearly and simply explained. 

An often gripping book that should interest those who like detective fiction.