Book Review: Spirits of the Coast

Spirits of the Coast: Orcas in science, art and history – Martha Black (ed), Lorne Hammond (ed), Gavin Hanke (ed), Nikki Sanchez (ed) – The Royal British Columbia Museum – Published 15 May 2020

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Synopsis

Spirits of the Coast brings together the work of marine biologists, Indigenous knowledge keepers, poets, artists, and storytellers, united by their enchantment with the orca. Long feared in settler cultures as “killer whales,” and respected and honored by Indigenous cultures as friends, family, or benefactors, orcas are complex social beings with culture and language of their own. With contributors ranging from Briony Penn to David Suzuki, Gary Geddes and Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas, this collection brings together diverse voices, young and old, to explore the magic, myths, and ecology of orcas. A literary and visual journey through past and possibility, Spirits of the Coast illustrates how these enigmatic animals have shaped us as much as our actions have impacted them, and provokes the reader to imagine the shape of our shared future.

My thoughts

As a lover of all thing orca I knew I just had to read this book. And it was beautiful from cover to cover. There are many books out there about orcas, from introductory marine science books for kids to exposés about orcas in captivity. Spirits of the Coast captures all of that, as well as the elements I have often found to be missing from previous books, most notably that of an indigenous perspective. Through stories, poems, retellings, drawings, photographs, sculpture, museum exhibits, reflections, and articles, Spirits of the Coast captures a wide perspective on the amazing orcas and their history of interactions with humans. From the heartbreaking and despairing to the hopeful and uplifting, Spirits of the Coast is a powerful compendium.

Spirits of the Coast is divided into three main sections: Connection, Captivity and Consciousness. Throughout each, the power and magnificence of the orca is clearly portrayed. There is respect and awe and it seeps through every word, photograph and artwork.

At all times this is a book about orcas from a human perspective. That perspective spans many generations, cultures, opinions and angles. I loved that it contains many works of art, stories, and retellings from an indigenous perspective. Other books on orcas and their interactions with humans often neglect this perspective. It is so important.

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Book Review: The Spirit of Springer

The Spirit of Springer: The Real-Life Rescue of an Orphaned Orca – Amanda Abler and Levi Hastings (ill) – Little Bigfoot – Published 24 March 2020

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Synopsis

In 2002, a killer whale calf was discovered swimming alone in Puget Sound. This picture book follows the true story of her identification as a member of the A4 pod, a family of Northern Resident orcas living off the coast of British Columbia, and the team of scientists who worked together against all odds to save her from starvation and reunite her with her family.

The challenges of capturing Springer, transporting her north from Puget Sound to Canadian waters, and coordinating her release to facilitate a hopeful acceptance back into her family are brought to life.

My thoughts

The Spirit of Springer is a delightful story that retells the true events of the rescue and successful release of killer whale calf, Springer. The soft illustrations bring the events of the story to life. It’s a detailed and compelling story.

The writing does a fantastic job of placing the reader directly in the story, and setting the scene. The book is told from the perspective of the humans that interacted with Springer, from the ferry worker who spotter her alone to the scientists who worked to reunite her with her family. While this was a project that drew many people together, this book focuses on the work of Dr David Huff, a veterinarian at the Vancouver Aquarium and Dr Lance Barrett-Lennard, a marine mammal scientist.

The book explains both the media attention Springer received, the concern of the public and the details of her rescue, rehabilitation and release. Built into the story are explanations of scientific terminology, like dialect.

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Book Review: Bringing Back the Wolves

Bringing Back the Wolves: How a Predator Restored an Ecosystem – Jude Isabella and Kim Smith (ill.) – Kids Can Press – Published 3 March 2020

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Synopsis

An unintended experiment in Yellowstone National Park, in which an ecosystem is devastated and then remarkably rehabilitated, provides crucial lessons about nature’s intricate balancing act.

In the 1800s, hunters were paid by the American government to eliminate threats to livestock on cattle ranches near Yellowstone National Park. They did such a good job that, by 1926, no gray wolf packs were left in the park. Over the following decades, virtually every other part of the park’s ecosystem was affected by the loss of the wolves — from the animals who were their prey, to the plants that were the food for that prey, to the streams that were sheltered by those plants — and the landscape was in distress. So, starting in 1995, in an attempt to reverse course, the government reintroduced gray wolves to the park. Over time, animal populations stabilized, waterways were restored and a healthy ecosystem was recreated across the land. It’s a striking transformation, and a fascinating tale of life’s complicated interdependencies.

My thoughts

Bringing Back the Wolves – How A Predator Restored An Ecosystem explains about the history of the wolf in the Yellow Stone National Park in the US. From the hunting of wolves in the 1800s and the result this had on the Park to the reintroduction of wolves in 1995, this book explores the impact of an apex predator and how the Park has changed since the wolves have returned.

There is a wonderful sense of nature fixing its self as this book clearly steps out the impact of the wolves. Bringing Back the Wolves does a fantastic job of clearly and simply articulating the complex relationships involved and the intricacies of the impacts.

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Book Review: Your Team Loves Mondays…Right?

Your Team Loves Mondays…Right? – Kristin Sherry – Black Rose Writing – Published 20 February 2020

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Synopsis

According to Gallup research, 9 out of 10 people are not naturally wired to manage people. Yet, two-thirds of managers are thrown into supervising people without direction. Kristin Sherry had a similar experience leading a team of 31 people for the first time without preparation.

Packed with practical tools, frameworks and tips to grow your confidence and people management capabilities, this book will help you discover if management is the best fit for your talents, reveal directing and delegating styles, offer strategies and tactics for hiring, onboarding, training, developing others, and retaining and offboarding employees.

Readers will find step-by-step support to create development plans, give feedback, motivate others and facilitate feedback sessions in this toolbox of actionable guidance.

Hard learned lessons combined with experience coaching managers to improve their skills are delivered in this easy-to-follow guide to earn your team’s respect, get better results and help your team love Mondays.

My thoughts

The title of this book is what caught my eye. I thought it was the perfect way of capturing when a team can have some difficulties working together, when personalities get in the way of productivity or working together. Your Team Loves Mondays…Right? is a practical guide to management, and encompasses a range of topics from key management traits to the entire process through onboarding to offbording.

This book is suitable for managers or for would-be managers. It’s also helpful to those of us who are not managers but must work in a team and under managers. There are practical tips and plenty of examples. Kristin A. Sherry writes from her vast practical experience.

The book starts with breaking down the most effective characteristics of managers and moves into an assessment for the reader’s management style and fit for managerial work. The book then moves into the many possible stages of management, from hiring workers, induction training, working with their teams and training them up to the way in which to best go about discharging employees.

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Book Review: Have You Eaten Grandma?

Have You Eaten Grandma? Or, the Life-Saving Importance of Correct Punctuation, Grammar and Good English – Gyles Brandreth – Atria Books – Published 13 August 2019 (first pub 2018)

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Synopsis

Our language is changing, literary levels are declining, and our grasp of grammar is at a crisis point. From commas to colons, apostrophes to adverbs, there are countless ways we can make mistakes when writing or speaking. But do not despair! Great Britain’s most popular grammar guru has created the ultimate modern manual for English speakers on both sides of the Atlantic.

In this brilliantly funny and accessible guide to proper punctuation and so much more, Gyles Brandreth explores the linguistic horrors of our times, tells us what we’ve been doing wrong and shows us how, in the future, we can get it right every time. Covering everything from dangling participles to transitive verbs, from age-old conundrums like “lay” vs. “lie,” to the confounding influences of social media on our everyday language, Have You Eaten Grandma? is an endlessly useful and entertaining resource for all.

My thoughts

In the same vein as Eats, Shoots, and Leaves, Have You Eaten Grandma? plays on the importance of grammar and punctuation, even in today’s social media and technology-driven world, with a comprehensive and humorous layout of all the rules, memory devices, and tips and tricks you’ll need to master the power of the English language.

Chapter one, ‘Basic Punctuation or Have You Eaten Grandma?’, begins the foray into punctuation, followed by ‘Dashes, Hyphens, Slashes and more’, and ‘Apostrophes, Possession and Omission’. Brandreth also covers spelling in this book, with common (and sometimes less than helpful) rules, guides to prefixes and silent letters. There are also chapters on British English versus American English, abbreviations with a fresh inclusion of many that are commonly used today and on social media (some with a very humorous twist), slang, and rules for good communication. There are also fun sections that keen wordsmiths will enjoy, such as the A to Z of useful Scrabble words, and new words.

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Book Review: Orca

Orca: How We Came To Know And Love The Ocean’s Greatest Predator – Jason M. Colby – Oxford University Press – Published 1 June 2018

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Synopsis

Since the release of the documentary Blackfish in 2013, millions around the world have focused on the plight of the orca, the most profitable and controversial display animal in history. Yet, until now, no historical account has explained how we came to care about killer whales in the first place.

Drawing on interviews, official records, private archives, and his own family history, Jason M. Colby tells the exhilarating and often heartbreaking story of how people came to love the ocean’s greatest predator. Historically reviled as dangerous pests, killer whales were dying by the hundreds, even thousands, by the 1950s–the victims of whalers, fishermen, and even the US military. In the Pacific Northwest, fishermen shot them, scientists harpooned them, and the Canadian government mounted a machine gun to eliminate them. But that all changed in 1965, when Seattle entrepreneur Ted Griffin became the first person to swim and perform with a captive killer whale. The show proved wildly popular, and he began capturing and selling others, including Sea World’s first Shamu.

Over the following decade, live display transformed views of Orcinus orca. The public embraced killer whales as charismatic and friendly, while scientists enjoyed their first access to live orcas. In the Pacific Northwest, these captive encounters reshaped regional values and helped drive environmental activism, including Greenpeace’s anti-whaling campaigns. Yet even as Northwesterners taught the world to love whales, they came to oppose their captivity and to fight for the freedom of a marine predator that had become a regional icon.

Orca is the definitive history of how the feared and despised “killer” became the beloved “orca”–and what that has meant for our relationship with the ocean and its creatures.

My thoughts

Orca: How We Came To Know and Love the Ocean’s Greatest Predator is an incredible book. It seemingly borders the divide between research tome and story, drawing upon well-written narrative to convey a thorough recall of the history of the interactions between humans and orca.

Like many, I have watched the documentary Blackfish. Like many others, I have been long enthralled with the awesome power and grace of the Orcinus Orca, starting from my childhood love of whales and dolphins. I have seen students complete assignments on the now-popular aforementioned documentary, but wondered what parts of the story might have been missing, what other truths there are to be revealed about the history of humans and orcas. It was with great pleasure that I discovered Orca. Not only could I satisfy my own curiosity, but I could add to our library’s collection and our students’ research a source that provides a thorough investigation of this history, and one that considers all sides of the story.

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Book Review: WordPress Websites for Business

WordPress Websites for Business: How Anyone Can Maximize Website Performance and Results – Michael Cordova – WildBlue Press – Published 12 December 2017

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Synopsis

Ok, so you’re company’s team has finally agreed to build a new website, but all you know is what you knew when you built the last one, and it failed miserably. Nobody in the company wants to go down that same road again, but at the same time, nobody knows how to do it any different than the last time.

Just like so many other things in life, doing it right doesn’t take much more time than doing it wrong. It just takes the knowledge of how to do it right the first time. In the case of building a website, it takes the knowledge of many others to get optimal results from your website, and this book brings them all together in one concise place for your reference.

I have seen many people/companies make mistakes in the creation of their website. Their mistakes have led to Google penalties that they never recovered from. Simple preparations and settings discussed in the book ensure that you don’t make those same mistakes. Each new website has different scenarios, and those particulars are discussed so you can customize your installation to show you how to avoid making critical, and possibly crippling or complete show-stopping mistakes that can set you back for months or years.

My thoughts

This book crossed my path at the exact time that I needed it. I have been using WordPress for a number of years on a free blogging basis, but have recently been asked to coordinate, design and build an externally hosted WordPress-based website for an advocacy group. Everyday I was learning something new and finding that I had endless questions that needed to be answered. WordPress Websites for Business was the ideal solution to those questions. There is something about a book that seems more trustworthy than a variety of random website sources (I guess I am a traditional librarian at heart). However, WordPress Websites for Business has an informal, website feel to it. Short chapters and an informal, personal writing style contribute to this feeling. The author frequently references his own experiences and his qualifications for writing such a book and links to examples.

The first section of this book briefly outlines the book’s purpose, intended audience, and the author’s experience. The next section then outlines a short history of the internet, giving context to some of the techniques and technology used, CSS for example. The remainder of the book is then split into a range of sections which vary from SEO optimisation and security, to plugins and child themes. The chapter headings themselves are quite helpful, “Wordpress.com vs. WordPress.org – Always Pick the Latter for Business”, for example.

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Book Review: School Libraries and Student Learning

School Libraries and Student Learning: A Guide for School Leaders – Rebecca J. Morris – Harvard Education Press – Published 4 August 2015

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Synopsis

Innovative, well-designed school library programs can be critical resources for helping students meet high standards of college and career readiness. In School Libraries and Student Learning, Rebecca J. Morris shows how school leaders can make the most of their school libraries to support ambitious student learning. She offers practical strategies for collaboration between school leaders, teachers, and librarians to meet schoolwide objectives in literacy, assessment, student engagement, and inquiry-based learning.
Topics include: establishing “makerspaces” and “learning commons” to support student-centered learning; developing a schoolwide focus on literacy across multiple formats and devices; redesigning lesson plans that foster inquiry and critical thinking across classrooms and grade levels; supporting collaboration between teachers and librarians in instruction and assessment; and using the library to strengthen ties between school, family, and community.

My thoughts

As a librarian I am always eager to learn more about the amazing profession I find myself in, how school libraries are changing, and how this should reflect practice. I also love learning about what other school libraries are doing. School Libraries and Student Learning by Rebecca J Morris is a wonderful resource for school librarians and school leaders. It covers a huge range of topics, from the fundamental principles of libraries and librarians, to specialised spaces within the library or learning commons, as well as guides, checklists, and real-life school examples.

School Libraries and Student Learning is written for school leaders. It seeks to highlight the importance of school libraries, school librarians and the way in which these are both integral to an integrated school learning system. There are eight chapters, as well as a school library checklist appendix.

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Book Review: Pat Sloan’s Teach Me To Make My First Quilt

Pat Sloan’s Teach Me To Make My First Quilt: A How-to Book for All You Need To Know – Pat Sloan – That Patchwork Place – Published 15 August 2017

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Synopsis

Expert teacher and quilt designer Pat Sloan guides you through each and every step as you make your first quilt. Pat’s easy-to-follow instructions and more than 140 clear how-to photos make it fun to start, stitch, and finish nine classic blocks and nine simple quilt projects–even if you’re an absolute beginner. Learn the basics, from selecting notions and cutting fabric to machine sewing to quilting and binding, all from a skilled instructor with a warm, patient teaching style.

My thoughts

I have always wanted to create a quilt, but I’ve never been brave enough. No one in my family is a quilter. There is something so beautiful, colourful, intricate, and homely about patchwork quilts that have captured my attention and I have always desired to take that first (scary) leap and start one. For these reasons, Pat Sloan’s Teach Me To Make My First Quilt intrigued me.

This is the ideal book for people, such as myself, who want to sew their own quilt but aren’t sure where to start. It covers everything from tools, fabric choice, and tips and hints that you might not have thought of before.

The book is divided into three main sections. The first is an information guide on everything you need to know about basic quilting. Included in this first section is a short introduction, information about updating your sewing machine for quilting, tools you’ll need, how to change a rotary-cutter blade, common quilting terms and how to read a pattern. There is also information about fabric, different types and how to best measure and cut your fabric, followed by general sewing techniques for quilting. A chapter on appliqué is followed by chapters on assembling and finishing your quilt.

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Book Review: Online Marketing for Busy Authors – A step-by-step guide

Online Marketing

Online Marketing for Busy Authors: A Step-by-Step Guide –  Fauzia Burke – Berrett-Koehler Publishers – Published 19 April 2016

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Synopsis

If You Want People to Read Your Book, 
Writing It Is Only the Beginning 
There has truly never been a better time to be an author. For the first time, authors have direct access to the public via the Internet and can create a community eagerly awaiting their book. But where do new authors start? How do they sort through the dizzying range of online options? Where should they spend their time online and what should they be doing? 
Enter Fauzia Burke, a digital book marketing pioneer and friend of overwhelmed writers everywhere. She takes authors step-by-step through the process of identifying their unique personal brand, defining their audience, clarifying their aspirations and goals, and setting priorities. She offers advice on designing a successful website, building a mailing list of superfans, blogging, creating an engagement strategy for social media, and more. By following Burke’s expert advice, authors can conquer the Internet and still get their next manuscript in on time. 

My thoughts

Online Marketing For Busy Authors is the perfect resource for both new and experienced authors, those that already have a large following and those just starting out. It works with you through the often daunting process of engaging with your readers through social media, but also refines the perhaps less clear area of first setting out your goals for engaging with online markets. This book is also a great guide for anyone in the business of promotions trying to understand the methods behind this online world and designing a marketing plan to target the right people in the right ways.    Continue reading