February 27, 2017

A family's story

Coming to America: A Muslim Family's Story
by Bernard Wolf

This book is a realistic look at an Egyptian family's arrival in the United States. The father, Hassan, won a green card lottery. He spent four years alone in New York City before earning enough money to send for his family, which included then eight-year-old Rowan. The clear text and bright photographs allow readers to share in the family's experiences as they work, shop, go to school, and practice their religion.

The photos reveal a close-knit family that take pleasure in the company of friends and each other. They also capture the weariness in Hassan's face as he works nights in a store, the sadness of Rowan when she thinks of her homeland, and the quiet pride of her brother on his graduation day.

After reading this book, readers will gain a clearer understanding of the challenges immigrants face, and a few basic facts about Islam.

February 24, 2017

Great Houdini

Houdini: World's Greatest Mystery Man and Escape King
by Kathleen Krull
illustrations by Eric Velasquez

A quick read, Krull has chosen to focus on the basic facts of Houdini's life and five of his most well-known escapes. Houdini was, in fact, a much more complex man, which is only hinted at here. The negative aspects of his life are glossed over. However, Krull does include a bibliography for those interested in a more thorough recap of Houdini's career.

Children ages 6 and up should find the book fairly satisfying.

February 22, 2017

The first great magician

The Amazing Harry Kellar: Great American Magician
by Gail Jerrow

Harry Kellar was once so well-known that he was depicted as the wizard in L. Frank Baum's Wizard of Oz, first published in 1900. 

Author Gail Jerrow traces Kellar's career from magician's assistant to world-class illusionist in this definitive biography. She keeps the twelve chapters relatively short, making the trip though magical history much more palatable than the previous books of magic that I have read. The story is greatly enhanced by the inclusion of numerous black-and-white photos and full-colour reproductions of Kellar's promotional posters.

An appealing book for anyone interested in magic, spiritualism, and séances.

February 20, 2017

Queen of magic

Anything But Ordinary Addie: The True Story of Adelaide Herrmann, Queen of Magic
by Mara Rockliff
illustrated by Iacopo Bruno

Most books about magic rarely mention women, unless they are married to a magician or is a magician's assistant. So it's refreshing to see a picture book biography of a female magician, especially one as astonishing, shocking, and dazzling as Adelaide Hermann. Those three words are often used to describe Adelaide's extraordinary adventures. She knew exactly what she wanted to do and set out to do it, despite what anyone thought. 

Her vibrant life is expertly showcased in this book, with strong, active prose and eye-catching pictures. Endnotes provide more detail and describe how the author uncovered Adelaide's story.

A very attractive book.

February 17, 2017

The magic business

Hiding the Elephant: How Magicians Invented the Impossible and Learned to Disappear
by Jim Steinmeyer

Steinmeyer's book summarizes the history of magic during the 1910s to 1930s in exhaustive detail. His cast of magicians - mainly from Britain, France, and the United States, and exclusively male - resort to tricks and subterfuge not only in beguiling audiences but in fierce rivalry between each other. Their soap-opera-like antics are more tedious than intriguing, as are the many pages devoted to the physics of mirrors and wires and stage configurations.

Readers with only a passing interest in magic should avoid this book, unless they need help getting to sleep. The book seems more geared to business students, physicists, and engineers, or those who really want to know how magicians perform their stunts.

February 15, 2017

The history of magic

Abracadabra: The Story of Magic Through the Ages
by H.P. Newquist

Newquist traces the history of magic through medieval times to the present day, revealing the secrets behind many famous illusions. He shows how the advent of science and television helped magicians in fooling and dazzling their audiences. He also provides more complete magician biographies, and includes instructions for eight magic tricks for readers to try. Two aren’t feasible (the levitation and zigzag tricks) and two ought to have come with pictures (the disappearing knot and toothpick tricks), but kids should get the general idea.

Best for ages 10 and up.

February 13, 2017

Magic tricks

Children's Book of Magic

Kids are fascinated by magic, as evidenced by the continuing popularity of Harry Potter. But magic is more than magic wands and incantations. It involves illusion, distraction, and showmanship. The Children’s Book of Magic not only explains these skills, but reveals the secrets behind some common tricks. It then offers a wealth of magical effects for kids to master, like vanishing, transformation, levitation, and prediction. They’ll also get a peek into the history of magic and the lives of five famous magicians, of which Houdini is the most recognizable. 

The history and bios are pretty cursory, but the instructions for each trick are very clearly presented, with large, step-by-step pictures and easily-obtained materials.

February 10, 2017

Tiny creatures do big things

Tiny Creatures: The World of Microbes
by Nicola Davies
illustrated by Emily Sutton

Simple straight-forward prose and colourful illustrations form a good introduction to the minuscule world of microbes. Davies uses easy-to-follow analogies so kids can grasp just how tiny and numerous microbes are, while Sutton's double-page spreads show how quickly microbes multiply, and even how pretty some of them look.

An excellent book for three to five-year-olds.

February 6, 2017

Your microbiome

Inside Your Insides: A Guide to the Microbes That Call You Home
by Claire Eamer
illustrated by Marie-Ève Tremblay

Our bodies are covered (inside and out!) with bacteria, viruses, fungi, and more! But not to worry, these teeny weeny organisms - or microbes - are mostly harmless. In fact, they're essential in helping us fight infections and digest our food. So a healthy microbiome is a must! 

In her entertaining and up-to-date book, Claire Eamer gives us the scoop on microbes and their purpose. The cheerful text is supplemented by sidebars of interesting facts and corny jokes that will keep readers engaged. Tremblay's cartoonish, friendly pictures add to the fun.

A very appealing book.

February 3, 2017

Ultimate book of Maple Leaf facts

The Toronto Maple Leafs Ultimate Book of Facts, Stats, and Stories
by Andrew Podnieks

Entertain your friends and family with this compendium of Maple Leaf facts. It provides an excellent summary of monumental games and rivalries, the biggest trades, the most memorable milestones, and every All-Star game played in Toronto. It also lists every playoff score, regular season score (up to 2014-15), and stats for every player who ever donned a Leaf sweater. Fans will particularly cherish the lists of players by sweater number and birthdate.

February 1, 2017

Maple Leafs turn 100!

The Toronto Maple Leaf Hockey Club: Official Centennial Publication
by Kevin Shea and Jason Wilson

Take a journey through the ups and downs of the storied Maple Leafs in this handsomely-bound book. From their very first season to the present-day, Shea and Wilson cover every game and every triumph and heartache, along with its revolving cast of players, coaches, and general managers. It's a journey that will evoke much nostalgia, joy, sadness, and disappointment. But through it all, the love for the Leafs shine strong.

A book every Leaf fan will appreciate.