Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Russell Shorto: Amsterdam

Amsterdam: A History of the World's Most Liberal City, by Russell Shorto on Amazon. Today, 22 October 2013, is the book's publication day!

Amsterdam cover Russell Shorto knows his Amsterdam! He knows the social, economic, political, and religious history of the city; he has done a lot of research (of course you need already to know what something is about in order to know what to look up and discover more about), and brought all of it together extremely well.

I love Amsterdam, city of canals, and city of bicycles. I've loved the city since before I first ventured there. I love landing at Schiphol and the sound of church bells. I love that some of my progenitors were Dutch. I even love the cold wind blowing off the North Sea. And I love how Russell Shorto describes the city's human scale, its dual emphases on the individual and on a fully collaborative society that accomplishes virtually nothing without getting it done together. I had to read this book!

In school most of us learned something about how humans working together claimed The Netherlands from the sea; ocean trade routes and trading in commodities; speculative financial markets; exploration and settlement of "new worlds" formed part of most high school and undergrad curricula. How interesting it was to read biographical sketches of at least a dozen truly historically pivotal Amsterdammers like Rembrandt and Spinoza and van Gogh―with each account of each life exactly the correct length.

The author articulates ways all these and many more aspects of living in Amsterdam (and truly, of being Dutch) contributed to the development of an almost unimaginably diverse and complex world within a world that, in general, has been a safe place for differences.

Amazon send me a prepublication "bound galley," so I don't have end notes or index, but I will take advantage of the splendid bibliography. Five stars for sure, and a keeper for my own bookshelves.

my Amazon review: Amsterdam Panorama

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

desert dance

Desert Dance by Charlotte Armajo and Teri Sloat on Amazon.

desert dance cover
This is early October, so we recently experienced another full Harvest Moon like the one in Desert Dance. In colorfully subtle tertiary hues, Teri Sloat illustrates lizards, wild hares, rattlesnakes, sage hens, wolves, and roadrunners dancing under a bright moon as it illuminates the Southwestern USA desert. This mostly is a picture book of seven 2-page spreads, a title page and a closing page—the enchanting art totally makes the book sing! Not that Charlotte Armajo's simple text that includes a lot of repeated words almost any preschooler or early-grader would understand isn't well-done and appropriate, it just doesn't contain a whole lot of substance or imagination, so 4 stars total.

• my amazon review: desert dancing

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Designing B2B Brands

Designing B2B Brands on Amazon

designing b2b brands

This beautifully planned, strikingly designed, and solidly produced book of a couple hundred pages amounts to a seminar in the highly integrated development and presentation of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu, a global brand I'd previously not known about. The Google short version of their mission tells us, "Deloitte services include audit, consulting, financial advisory, risk management and tax."

Indeed there are some differences between Business-To-Business and Business-To-Consumer branding; a comprehensive, up-to-date, panorama of a single firm is just that, and won't approach or touch upon every imaginable identity communication concern you may have about your own service or consumer product. Nonetheless, whether you're an MBA, an MFA, or work with branding in another capacity, these "lessons" the subtitle describes can be appropriated well and applied to good effect in many other cases. Following contemporary design trends, the book's open layout, excellent typography, and use of [literal] "white space" conveys a sense of leisurely opulence and purpose. Designing B2B Brands has found a place alongside the books I consult for inspiration and return to for advice.

• my amazon review: design seminar

An Ordinary Toad's Extraordinary Night

An Ordinary Toad's Extraordinary Night on Amazon

ordinary toad's extraordinary night cover
Just as she did with The Tiniest Tiger, Joanne McGonagle has written another book that helps people of all ages understand a little more about the orders and distinctives of nature (especially amphibians in this case) than they previously may have known; even better, she has given us a story that helps all of us of any age celebrate our uniqueness, along with the irreplaceable value each of us has in the world and within creation. The storyline seems too long and complicated for most younger kids of about 4th grade or younger, yet at almost every step along the way, they still can learn a truth or a fact about nature or about themselves that doesn't depend upon grasping the entire narrative from first to final sentence.

Joanne's words and the whimsical though quite realistic pictures place us inside the story of young American Toad Andrew, who, although he is an "ordinary" toad, is not a "common" toad—we can find those many places in Europe. Via Andrew's interactions with his mother and grandfather and with other animals, he learns a lot about himself, and teaches the reader about differences between toads and frogs.

Rachael Mahaffey created the beautiful illustrations that make this just as much a picture book as it is a story book! However, just as with several books for younger readers I've recently reviewed, I very much wish the color palette of An Ordinary Toad's Ordinary Night was brighter and lighter, though I appreciate that the darker, more subdued hues may be closer to actual toad habitat. Also, the format that guides the reader by highlighting all the text inside scrolls is a great touch. Every creature, every human, every aspect of every habitat is important!

my amazon review: Toads, Frogs, Uniqueness, Importance...

Friday, July 19, 2013

Little Lost Tiger

Little Lost Tiger by Jonathan London, author; Ilya Spirin, illustrator on amazon

little lost tiger cover

Little Lost Tiger is a beautifully illustrated description of a night and the following morning in the life of Siberian tiger Striped One and her young son, Amba. Author Jonathan London nicely describes the frozen habitat, the creatures (tigers and others) who live there, and the excitement of a sudden forest fire. "A Note from the Author" at the end tells us a little about Siberian tigers; it informs us Udege and Nanai tribes both call tigers "Amba," so that's where the baby tiger in Little Lost Tiger got his name.

I love that the story itself is short enough to hold a young child's attention; I also appreciate how London's narrative and Ilya Spirin's drawings work in tandem to describe the Siberian wilderness. My main reservation is about Little Lost Tiger being yet another book for young children with dark hued artwork! I realize the setting most likely was not especially light and bright, but a few more glints and suggestions of brightness would help with total appeal.

my Amazon review: a story about Siberian Tigers

Monday, May 13, 2013


Partners front cover
on amazon, with eight chapters, each in two parts: Part One: Neighborhood Revitalization through Partnership; Part Two: Whittier Neighborhood, a Minneapolis Case Study.

More than ten years after its publication in 1982, at one of the annual Salt Lake City Neighborhood Conferences I received a copy of this soft-cover, 11.7"x9.1"x0.8" explorative report on revitalization of the Whittier section of Minneapolis. It's printed on heavy, coated paper, and it's packed with narrative, with Black and White and color photographs, diagrams, charts, and general inspirations. I'm reading myself and my current situation into some words about the USA from the Prologue that could apply to many individuals:
"This book is about the end of an era and the beginning of a new possibility. The era it leaves behind was 'on the road,' mobile, going anywhere, celebrating space. The possibility it welcomes is 'coming home,' rooting, creating a stake, celebrating place."

partners inside pages

"Neighborhood is about place. It declares that one special place is the foundation for life's living. America 'on the move' was hard on places, whether prairies or forests or older cities. This is the story of a new generation that came home and found a way to recover a place that had been misused by old-fashioned Americans. It is about a beginning, a possibility, a way people act when place really matters." [iv]
partners inside pages
Partners back cover

In the wake of famously misguided attempts by government and by private investors to remedy real problems of inner city decay, neighborhood decline, and infrastructure deterioration, Dayton-Hudson (now Target Corporation) partnered with residents, businesses, local government and other entities to help the actual people of Whittier revitalize and reclaim the community for themselves by creating a home, a place to be, during the 1970s. Partners is a fascinating study about people power, grass roots action, and the resurgence of hope and life. Three decades later, this book is hardly dated at all, and still would be useful and instructive for any urban studies, American studies, sociology, or cultural anthropology course.
partners inside pages

my amazon review: creating home

Saturday, May 11, 2013

The Rain Stomper

rain stomper cover The Rain Stomper on amazon...

• Author Addie Boswell's site

• Illustrator Eric Velazquez

Eric's blog

Even if you don't read The Rain Stomper aloud, you still can hear the words of the book, you can feel the sense of those words as you turn the pages. The illustrator has come close to achieving a kinetic style with the static text of this printed book!

Enjoy the simple story of young Jazmin's journey from disappointment over waking up to a rainy day she at first imagines will ruin the big parade, on to her venturing out of her city apartment into the rain, listening to sounds of a very heavy storm, then watch her stomping, splashing, through the rain as her neighbors come out theirs door to join her. Eventually everyone drums, stomps, swirls, splashes, and twirls the sun into coming out and shining down on them.

Addie Boswell's words are easy reading, Eric Velasquez' somberly-colored pictures are delightful viewing—he illustrates the rainy day with perfection! Most likely kids in the 7-12 year age group of those in the illustrations would most appreciate The Rain Stomper, but younger kids easily could memorize the words and recite them along with the pictures.

my amazon review: celebrating weather!

Saturday, February 16, 2013

I, Win

Introducing Win Kelly Charles and her World

I, Win: Hope and Life: my journey as a woman with cerebral palsy living in a non-disabled world, by Win Kelly Charles, kindle edition on Amazon; and paperback.

This short book of fewer than 100 pages offers a winsome overview of Win Kelly Charles' life and aspirations—so far. Because she was born prematurely at very low birth rate and as a result of other factors, Win has been living, struggling, and thriving with cerebral palsy all her life. Her parents' devotion, imagination and care of her from the beginning gave her the support she needed to begin and continue overcoming (conservatively) tremendous odds, and grow into a creative, productive adult artist, teacher, and entrepreneur. Being an Aspen, Colorado, native helped a lot, too!

I, Win coverEach chapter moves quickly through details of an aspect of Win's life, including explanations of ways she adapts in order to accomplish different tasks. I was surprised at how involved she has been in sports like skiing and mountain climbing, but as she pointed out, everyone has challenges, gifts, limitations, and assets. I'm looking forward to reading the next installment of Win's life journey! A "thank you" to the author for offering the free Kindle edition.

You can find Win Charles on Facebook.

my amazon review: Introducing Win and her World

Sunday, February 10, 2013

good earth herb crusted chicken

good earth Restaurant Favorites, Herb Crusted Chicken with mushroom risotto on amazon and possibly at a store near to you, too.

good earth risottoThe ingredients panel on good earth Herb Crusted Chicken with mushroom risotto identified only the herb parsley, but I'd guess maybe thyme, basil, bay, and/or oregano; 100% whole grain brown rice, white wine sauce, seasoned panko crumbs, and mushroom risotto seasoning came packed inside the box. I had to look up "panko," and discovered it's Japanese-style bread crumbs—made from bread without crusts. The recipe came together easily from the clear directions, and it looked exactly like the picture on the package! I needed to add only oil for sautéing, chicken parts, and milk; as usual, my milk was sour cream. Results yield very generous portions for serving 2, plenty for 4.

This tasty dish is from the same General Mills Restaurant Favorites division as the Mediterranean Chicken I enjoyed so much, but it's far closer to comfort food than to gourmet. However, it's definitely worth stocking up on a few packages when you find it on sale.

my amazon review: closer to comfort than gourmet

Sunday, January 06, 2013

Salads for Every Season

Salads for Every Season: 25 Recipes from Earthbound Farm on Amazon

I was delighted to get this short ebook for free, though it's totally worth the current $1.99 price (reduced from $2.99). I love salads, so maybe I'm a tad prejudiced?! In terms of size, shorter often is better than longer when it comes to choosing a recipe. Author Myra Goodman of Earthbound Farm reminds us salads "redefine fast food," and gives us a dozen reasons for going organic.

Useful guides and instructions include: "A Field Guide to Salad Greens" with descriptions and pictures; a chart of how much to buy and how much to allow per person for side salad or main-course salad; how to grow sprouts, roast sunflower seeds, toast nuts and seeds in oven, microwave, stovetop; how to blanch fruits and veggies; how to seed and peel a tomato...

You easily could scroll through the varieties of flavors, colors, textures, and tangs in Salad for Every Season to find something that fits the ingredients on hand, or you could vary any basic recipe to your own taste. A reader recommendation? I'd especially like to try some of the vinaigrette variations. Besides Salads and Salad Dressing divided into Spring and Summer / Fall and Winter sections, beautiful full-color photographs are worthy of a book you'll love to have on your bookshelf and hold in your hands.

nice variety! my Amazon review