Tag Archives: book review

Book Review: Butterflies of the Northwoods

I am reprinting a book review from a few years ago, Butterflies of the Northwoods.

Book Review: Butterflies of the North Woods

Butterflies of the North Woods by Larry Weber is an excellent field guide for identification of butterflies. It is part of the North Woods Naturalist series, covering the states of Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Ontario, Canada. How many times have you seen a butterfly flying by, and weren’t sure what it was?  This field guide not only has excellent photos, but it also has a lot of information on the habits of butterflies, such as what food they eat and what food the butterfly caterpillars eat.  It really helped me out, because we get a lot of brown butterflies with eyespots in this area that all look very similar. It helped me to differentiate between them, by comparing the number of eyespots, etc.  Also included is an interesting section on the history of butterflies, such as: butterflies are really a type of moth that may have started flying during the day to get away from moth-eating bats. There is also information on day-flying moths that only look like butterflies. Also part of the series: Moths and Caterpillars of the North Woods, Dragonflies of the North Woods, and Damselflies of the North Woods.

Reference:  Larry Weber, Butterflies of the North Woods, 2nd edition,(Duluth,MN:Kollath+Stensaas Publishing, 2006

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Book Review: Audubon Eastern Birds

Book Review: Audubon Eastern Birds


National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Birds: Eastern Region by John Bull and John Farrand Jr., is a really nice field guide for getting an overview of the kinds of birds you are seeing in your backyard or at parks. There is an explanation of the range maps and types of birds at the beginning, and there are beautiful color pictures of the birds in a special section, organized by type of bird and color. I especially liked the section on owls. They also show both male and female birds when they have different coloring. The next section is a section of bird descriptions and range maps that correspond to the bird photos. There is also a description of their calls, but sometimes it can be a little hard to transcribe bird songs. You just have to make sure that you keep the page numbers straight, because the number of the “plates”, (photos of the birds), are different from the page numbers of the bird descriptions, and you just need to make sure you have the right number, or you’ll turn to the wrong page. All in all, I think this is an excellent book, but I would like it if the descriptions of the birds were more detailed. There is also an Audubon Western Birds book as well.

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Book Review: 400 Knitting Stitches

Book Review: 400 Knitting Stitches, editors at Potter Craft


This is a book I have been using for a few years to help me come up with ideas for stitch patterns. It is really good for knitting scarves or coasters, because you can just choose the stitch pattern or patterns that you like, combining them however you like, and then you will be able to design your scarf. The book is organized according to different categories, such as Knit Purl stitches, Crossed stitches and Cables, Slipped stitches, Lacy stitches, Double stitches, Twisted stitches, Cast-off stitches, and Fancy stitches. One of the things I like about this book is it has the instructions both written out and in a chart. I don’t read charts quite as well as written instructions, but it doesn’t matter because there is a handy guide to all the symbols in the back of the book. There is also a basic guide to knitting in the front, but if you are new to knitting you might want to get something more in-depth. There are actually a lot of challenging stitches in here, but there are many that are fairly easy as well. The pictures are very clear and the examples are knitted with cream color yarn that looks sport weight. The only thing is I often use chunky yarn, so it would be interesting to see how these patterns would look in different yarn weights, but then maybe the book would be too long. The only real drawback to the book is that it doesn’t really have a lay flat binding. Also the cable section is really long, at almost a hundred pages. But maybe if you are really into doing cables, this would be a good thing. One interesting thing about this book is that it was originally published in France.

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Book Review: Ballet Basics

ballet basics book cover

Ballet Basics


Ballet Basics

by Sandra Noll Hammond


National Dance Week is April 22 – May 1

Ballet Basics was the book that was used for my college ballet class. It is similar to Jump into Jazz, the book I just reviewed, in terms of how it is organized. I have the fifth edition (2004), but there is probably something more recent by now.

Chapter 1: The Ballet Class – This chapter goes into all the different things a beginner would need to know, such as attire, music, posture, shoes, and the structure of the class.

Chapter 2: Ballet Technique: Barre Work – Barre exercises for the beginner are explained, with illustrations.

Chapter 3: Ballet Technique: Center Work – Ballet exercises away from the barre, (in the center of the room) are explained, including port de bras (carriage of the arms), arabesque (balancing poses where the leg is extended behind), connecting movements, and pirouettes and other turns.

Chapter 4: Ballet Technique: Allegro – Allegro is an Italian word that means fast and lively. In ballet, it applies to both quick little jumps (petite allegro) or larger jumps (grand allegro) that may look fairly simple but can be quite challenging to do well.

Chapter 5: The Ballet Body – Information on different types of exercise that complement ballet, injury prevention, and nutrition.

Chapter 6: The Ballet Profession – Information on performance, and opportunities for a career in dance.

Chapter 7: Ballet History – This is a very detailed chapter that traces the roots of ballet from the middle ages to the present time. I used this chapter as a basis for a research paper I wrote for my college dance appreciation class.

There are illustrations throughout of both male and female dancers, and the book is specifically designed for adult students


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Book Review: Jump into Jazz

Jump into Jazz book cover

Jump into Jazz

Jump into Jazz

by Minda Goodman Kraines

and Esther Pryor

National Dance Week is April 22-May 1


Jump into Jazz is the jazz dance textbook that I had in college. It is appropriate for beginner through intermediate. I have the fourth edition which is copyright 2001. I’m sure they have something more recent now. This book is divided into twelve chapters that cover pretty much anything that you would want to know.

Chapter 1: Basic attire, shoes, types of jazz dance, how to have a successful class.

Chapter 2: Basic body alignment

Chapter 3: Ballet exercises for jazz dancers. Although it’s not required at the recreational level, a lot of jazz dancers take an additional ballet class, as it’s very good for body alignment and can also be relaxing and promote awareness of different muscle groups. A lot of the time a jazz dance teacher will incorporate ballet exercises into the class, but they may practice them in parallel position instead of turned out.

Chapter 4, 5,6: Basic positions, warm-ups, basic jazz steps.

Chapter 7: More advanced steps.

Chapter 8: Information on musicality, staging, performing.

Chapter 9, 10: Fitness, injury prevention, and nutrition.

Chapter 11: Different jobs in the dance field.

Chapter 12: One of the most interesting chapters, a history of jazz dance.

All in all, this is a really well thought out book, one that you can keep for years. It has nice illustrations of both male and female dancers, and some photos of dancers performing as well.



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Book Review: Tracking Animals in Snow

Book Review: Field Guide to Tracking Animals in Snow

by Louise R. Forrest, illustrations by Denise Casey

This is a little late in the season, but we just got a bunch of snow last week, so it is still relevant. This is a nicely laid out book that contains information about all of the mammals in North America, and also their track patterns. It could also be used as a way to track animals in sand or mud as well. The text is accompanied by beautiful drawings, and there is an introduction at the beginning of every section that covers information on that family of animals. Also at the beginning is a very detailed introduction on the different track patterns that are formed in the snow.

Reference: Field Guide to Tracking Animals in Snow, Louise R. Forrest, Stackpole Books: Mechanicsburg, PA, 1988

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Book Review: Knits of Tomorrow

Book Review


Knits of Tomorrow: Toys and Accessories For Your Future Needs

by Sue Culligan

Knits of Tomorrow is an unusual collection of patterns to knit with a science fiction theme. Since I like to knit and I have always been interested in science fiction, I decided to check this book out from the library. The knit designs are a bit advanced for me, for the most part, but I enjoyed looking through the book anyway. Some of the more interesting projects are a desk tidy that looks like a rocket ship, a flying saucer paperweight, a music player cover that is designed to look like a cassette tape, a laptop cover with a Sputnik space satellite image, and many others. Many of the patterns use intarsia or fair isle knitting, or involve three-dimensional shapes. There are also some easier items as well. Even if you don’t think you have the skill level to knit these items, you may want to give it a look just because the pictures are so interesting.


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Book Review: The Portable MFA in Creative Writing

Book Review:  The Portable MFA in Creative Writing


The Portable MFA in Creative Writing is a book on writing technique put together by the teachers at the New York Writers Workshop.  It covers fiction writing, personal essay and memoir, magazine writing, poetry, and playwriting.   This is from the back cover:  “Get the core knowledge of a prestigious MFA education without the tuition.  Have you always wanted to get an MFA, but couldn’t because of the cost, time commitment, or admission requirements?  Well, now you can fulfill that dream without having to devote tons of money or time.  The Portable MFA gives you all of the essential information you would learn in an MFA program in one book.”  The author of the introduction thinks that the average MFA program does not spend enough time on craft, and says a lot of people think that writing can’t be taught.  About this last point, he says:  “Have you ever heard someone say:  ‘Why on earth are you taking piano instruction?  Music can’t be taught’?  Of course not, but you hear this nonsense all the time about writing.”  This is an interesting book that is like an anthology really, as every chapter is written by a different author, and they all have different personalities and styles of writing.  For myself, I found the most useful chapters to be personal essay and memoir, and poetry.


Reference:  The Portable MFA in Creative Writing, New York Writers Workshop, Cincinnati, OH: Writers Digest Books, 2006.

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Book Review: Danger in Paris


Book Review
Danger in Paris: A Samantha Mystery

Danger in Paris by Sarah Masters Buckey is one of the latest installments in the American Girl mystery series.  Eleven-year old Samantha is vacationing in Paris in 1907 with her wealthy grandparents and adopted sister Nellie.  They meet a variety of people in their tour group, and are warned about thieves and pickpockets.  When they go on a tour of the underground catacombs, Samantha’s grandfather is almost robbed, and one of the men in the tour group has his wallet stolen.  It also turns out that her grandfather needs to deliver an important letter, since he was an Admiral in the British navy.  Throughout the rest of the story, the girls try to figure out who the real thieves are, because it seems that just about everyone in their tour group is suspect. They finally figure out who the real thieves are at the end, in a somewhat interesting turn of events.  This book also features a lovable dog named Prince.  I thought that this story was very interesting, even though it is a kids’ book.  I like the fact that no one dies in the book, it is just an interesting mystery story.  Its interesting to see how life was at the turn of the century(the 20th century, that is).  I like the fact that Samantha and Nellie are able to figure out the mystery without any of the adults’ help.
Reference:  Danger in Paris: A Samantha Mystery, Sarah Masters Buckey, American Girl Publishing, 2015

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Book Review: Night Sky


Book Review: Night Sky

The book Night Sky by Jonathon Poppele is a field guide put out by Adventure Publications.  It was a National Outdoor Book Award Honorable Mention.  Basically, this is a great introduction to stargazing, and perfect for warm summer nights in the backyard, camping trips, or trips to the dark sky park (where you can stargaze at night).  It shows every constellation in the night sky, and tells when the best times for viewing are, as well as the best times of year, what times of year you can see the constellation, the mythology of the name, and how the constellation was discovered.  In the back of the book, there is a guide to the planets and solar system.

Reference:  Johnathon Poppele, Night Sky, Cambridge, MN: Adventure Publications, 2009

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Book Review: The Country Bunny

Book Review: The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes
This is a charming story that even adults will love about a female rabbit named Cottontail that wants to become one of the Easter Bunnies. It was first published in 1939, but it really has a kind of feminist feel to it, and has beautiful illustrations. It follows the story of how Cottontail has to try out for the role of Easter Bunny, and how she eventually triumphs over various adversities to become the Gold Shoe Easter Bunny.
Here is an excerpt:
“We hear of the Easter Bunny who comes each Easter Day before sunrise to bring eggs for boys and girls, so we think there is only one. But this is not so. There are really five Easter Bunnies, and they must be the five kindest, and swiftest, and wisest bunnies in the whole wide world, because between sunset on Easter Eve, and dawn on Easter morning, they do more work than most rabbits do in a whole year.”

Reference: Du Bose Heyward, pictures by Marjorie Hack, The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes, (New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1939)

There are several different editions available:
basic paperback

hardcover, 75th anniversary heirloom edition, with downloadable audio

paperback book, gift edition with charm

information on the indiebound program:

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Book Review: Winter World

Winter world book by Bernd Heinrich

Winter World by Bernd Heinrich


Book Review-Winter World by Bernd Heinrich

Winter World by Bernd (not a misspelling) Heinrich is an interesting book written by a wildlife biologist who also does his own drawings.  It explains how animals use ingenuity and natural traits to survive the winter. It goes into detail about how field mice, flying squirrels, and other small animals survive the winter by foraging, huddling together, and gathering warm material for their homes. There is a funny story he tells about how some mice got into his cabin in Vermont when he was not there, and started chewing up styrofoam insulation in the ceiling to use as bedding material.  He also talks about how animals like turtles hibernate under the mud, and about the complex biological changes that occur during hibernation.  All in all this is a great reference book to have around, or to read straight through.

For more information or to buy at an independent bookseller:

For info on the indiebound program:

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Book Review: The Nancy Drew Scrapbook

Nancy Drew Scrapbook


The Nancy Drew Scrapbook is a now out-of-print book that is a companion book to the series. It was written by Karen Plunkett-Powell, who is a big fan of the series. The book summarizes the different adventures of Nancy Drew, but also seeks to shed some light on the timeless appeal of the series that was started back in 1930. It talks about the personalities of the different characters, and how the different characters have evolved over time. It also details all of the different editions of the books, and versions of the stories on TV, in movies, in the theater, and even a ballet. One nice feature is that many of the original book covers are shown throughout the book.

Karen Plunkett-Powell, The Nancy Drew Scrapbook, (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1993)

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