How Tiger Says Thank You! and How Penguin Says Please! by Abigail Samoun, illustrated by Sarah Watts

Source: Sterling Children’s Books
Hardcover, 22-24 pgs
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How Penguin Says Please! and How Tiger Says Thank You! by Abigail Samoun, illustrated by Sarah Watts, are both part of the little traveler series of board books for ages 2-4. Kids love learning new words and why should learning a foreign language be any different.  At this age, kids are sponges ready to absorb anything they can get their hands or ears on, which also can spell trouble if you’re not careful when filtering your own behavior.  These little board books contain not only colorful illustrations of Penguin and Tiger’s travels, but also maps that illustrate the routes they took around the world.

Although there is no storyline per se, tiger and penguin are teaching kids and parents how to say Please and Thank You — which are some of the most important words in teaching children manners — in different languages, ranging from Chinese to Russian and Indian.  Tiger not only thanks a flight attendant, but also a balloon vendor, a market merchant, and others on her journey, while Penguin says please to an airline ticket agent, a bakery clerk, someone who takes her picture and others.

How Penguin Says Please! and How Tiger Says Thank You! by Abigail Samoun, illustrated by Sarah Watts, offer a great place to start learning new languages for kids.  They make travel to other countries less frightening, and make it easy for parents to pronounce the foreign words with the a key on each page for sounding out the words.  My daughter and I had fun with the travels and we talked about each country and what information I could provide in addition to the please and thank you word pronunciation aspect.  She loves books with maps and different cultures, soaking up all the information she can.  She is full of questions, and I cannot wait to hear her start trying to pronounce these words right alongside their English counterparts.

The Book of Goodbyes by Jillian Weise

Source: Academy of American Poets membership benefit
Paperback, 88 pgs
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The Book of Goodbyes by Jillian Weise, recipient of the Isabella Gardner Poetry Award in 2013 and the 2013 James Laughlin Award, is a collection of poems that highlights the power of goodbye and how it can free us from limitation.  Whether those limitations are self-imposed or imposed upon us by others or the outside distractions that keep us locked in place.

There are several poems in the collection about laws against the disabled being seen in public and the societal burdens that come with those medical miracles — prosthetic legs, for instance — and how those “norms” are meant to weigh down the potential of those human beings. While these “norms” must be recognized to be overcome, it is a big obstacle to overcome, especially when those limitations or “norms” become self-imposed limitations on the self. Saying goodbye to those can be a hard process to perform and a distance that can be difficult to maintain, but there is an inherent power in saying goodbye to those things.

Goodbyes (pg. 50)

begin long before you hear them
and gain speed and come out of 
the same place as other words.
They should have their own
place to come from, the elbow
perhaps, since elbows look
funny and never weep. Why
are you proud of me? I said
goodbye to you forty times.
I see your point. That is
an achievement unto itself.
My mom wants me to write
a goodbye poem. It should fit 
inside a card and use the phrase,
“You are one powerful lady.”
There is nothing powerful
about me though you might 
think so from the way I spit.
I don’t want to say goodbye
to you anymore. I heard
the first wave was an accident.
It happened in the Cave 
of the Hands in Santa Cruz.
The four of them were drinking
and someone killed
a wild boar and someone else
said, “Hey look, I put my hand
in it. Saying goodbye is like that.
You put your hand in it and then
you take your hand back.

Weise touches upon the hardships and the freedom of goodbye, but she also talks about its empowering nature. There is a willfulness to when we choose to make those breaks, and there are many of those moments in this collection.  The Book of Goodbyes by Jillian Weise, recipient of the Isabella Gardner Poetry Award in 2013 and the 2013 James Laughlin Award, offers a great deal to discuss, and would be an interesting selection for a book club discussion.

About the Poet: (Photo credit: Guillermo Morizot Hires)

Jillian Weise was born in Houston, Texas, in 1981. She studied at Florida State University; the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, where she was the Fred Chappell Fellow; and the University of Cincinnati.

Weise is the author of The Book of Goodbyes (BOA Editions, 2013), which received the 2013 James Laughlin Award from the Academy of American Poets, which recognizes a superior second book of poetry by an American poet. Her debut poetry collection, The Amputee’s Guide to Sex, was published by Soft Skull Press in 2007.





The Snowman by Jo Nesbø

Source: Public library
Hardcover, 383 pages
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The Snowman by Jo Nesbø, which was the May book club selection, is the 7th book in the Harry Hole detective series and translated by Don Bartlett.  The translation is wonderfully descriptive and never feels stilted, which is perfect when reading a mystery novel.  In fact, the clipped sentences read to me more like the pace of a mystery/thriller should be, while at the same time being descriptive, evocative, and creating an appropriate emphasis (if sometimes, over-emphasis) on the cold.

Oslo police investigator Harry Hole has solved a serial killer case before, and as his fame makes the rounds in Norway, he garners the attention of a young detective and a killer.  Mothers across the country are disappearing, and statistics reveal that about 20 percent of children are not related to the fathers they live with.  This story involves not only so called mommy issues, as one book club member stated, but also the power of genetics and survival of the fittest theories.

From the creepy snowmen that pop up after the disappearance of mothers across the city to the highly suspicious female detective Katrine Bratt, Hole has his work cut out for him in trying to solve these disappearances and murders.  As the mold is sought out in Hole’s apartment, the case has uncovered a series of ailments from Raynaud’s syndrome to scleroderma and noctambulism and other parasomnias.  These conditions play a significant role in how these characters act, react, and interact with one another, and they often lead to confusion of the facts in the snowman case.

Hole is a prototypical police detective consumed by his work, and like others, his obsession with solving his cases leads him to have a very solitary life in which alcohol plays a significant role.  What’s done really well here is the twists and turns in the case, hampered by the various ailments of the players, but also the dialogue.  It’s purposeful and witty, which can make the errors in judgment all the more ironic.

“‘I’m in the office and have had a look at what you’ve found.  You said all the missing women were married with children.  I think there could be something in that.’


‘I have no idea.  I just needed to hear myself say that to someone.  So that I could decide if it sounded idiotic.’

‘And how does it sound?’

‘Idiotic.  Good night.'” (page 113)

The Snowman by Jo Nesbø, translated by Don Bartlett, was a thrilling read and well written.  Hole may be an anti-hero, but he’s one you’ll want on your side to bring you justice, even if his own dysfunction can derail him.  Although this is a 7th book in the series, there was enough back story that readers would have no trouble following Hole.  Some readers may prefer to see the character’s evolution from start to finish, and for those, like myself, I recommend starting at the beginning.

What the Book Club Thought:

There were two members, including the one who nominated the book, who did not finish, and one member who skimmed through quite a bit of it.  Those who finished the book did have some issues with the set up of the narration, which shifted quite a bit between main and little used characters.  Overall, some of the crimes were intriguing, and downright gruesome, which some members enjoyed, but there was one scene in which a body was found in such a way that another member said it seemed cliche or recycled from his other book, The Son.  There were a few who rated the book 4 stars and several others rated it about three stars.  This one got mixed reviews, but for those who enjoyed it, they had no issues with the novel’s pacing or the narration.  One member found the narration to be choppy, which they thought might be due to translation, while another member thought it was the author’s style and the need to emphasize the cold.

About the Author:

Jo Nesbø is a Glass Key award-winning Norwegian author and musician. As of March 2014 more than 3 million copies of his novels have been sold in Norway, and his work has been translated into over 40 languages, selling 23 million copies.

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