These stories are the perfect combination of funny, embarrassing, and sometimes a little scary and sad, just like childood itself. Ramona is no brat. She always has the best intentions, but her curiosity and creativity tend to land her in trouble. She is often confused and bewildered when her good intentions meet an unfriendly reception. Still, Ramona is surrounded by loving and supporting adults, and she always pulls through fine.
My seven-year-old daughter listens to these stories every day. She emphatically agrees when Ramona says, "Being seven and half years old is not easy!"
I love the narration. Stockard Channing takes up Ramona's voice with sympathy and great humor. She really brings the characters to life without being overly dramatic.
This book raises some key points about what attributes in children predict success in adult life, and they are not what we tend to expect (name, not IQ). But it is also a somewhat scattered and unfocused book, sort of a sampling or anecdotes on the central theme. It spends a lot of time on the personalities and situations of the specific teachers, students, and researchers in the stories rather than driving home the central idea.
This is not really a parenting how-to book, and it tends to focus on older children, about age 10 or above. It is also not really a scientific book. It tends to feel more like journalism, maybe a very long article from a magazine.
This story brought home the intense and constant dangers faced by a small unit (24 men) of US soldiers near the Afghanistan / Pakistan border in 2007. It is a gritty tale of the war from the rocky ground of Eastern Afghanistan. I liked the details in this book: the key personalities in the platoon, relationships with the locals, and the tactical explanations of the battles. It is a focused and well written book, so much so that I felt truly scared just hearing about these savage battles years later.
Before this book, I really did not understand the bewildering challenges and near constant threat of attack faced by our soldiers in Afghanistan. Now I have a great appreciation for these outnumbered, exhausted soldiers who managed to thrive in such a hostile environment.
This book tells the story of the British invasion of New Orleans in the winter of 1814-1815. The story reads almost like a novel, with complex, lively characters from both sides of the war, often with interesting background stories on the main characters. Andrew Jackson, especially, got into some ridiculous, funny, and sometimes horrible scrapes before the war.
The battle itself is described in a very coherent and understandable way, switching seamlessly between British and American perspectives in a sensible chronological order. The battlefield by the Mississippi river, and the surrounding maze of swamps and lakes, are nicely visualized. One thing I especially liked was that the book explained just how difficult and complicated it was for the British to get anywhere near New Orleans in the first place, and likewise how dangerous and tedious their retreat turned out to be.
This book did a fine job setting the context for the battle, explaining what happened in the larger national and world context before and after the battle and what was at stake for both the British and Americans, and especially the locals, in the battle.
It is a good listen, well narrated, not too long, not too short, and makes history feel alive and important 200 years later.
If you want to know more (a lot more) about big questions like, "How did we get here?", "Where did the earth come from?", or "Why are humans so different than all other animals?", then this is the book for you. I surveys our scientific knowledge and its historical development, mixing well-written scientific explanations with surprising, funny, and sad stories about the scientists themselves. Some of the topics I sort of wish I did not know about, though. Stories of meteor strikes, ice ages, and mass extinctions give the very real sense that we -- that is, most forms of life on earth -- are not in as comfortable of a situation as we think, and eventually we are probably all doomed. It is a very discomforting thought, especially when explained so convincingly and in such detail, and not a good feeling to fall asleep to.
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