Friday, October 21, 2011

On the Grid (nonfiction)

Look around your house, apartment, or dorm on this Fun Friday.
Do you know the exact route that water takes to get to your faucet?
Where does it all go when you flush?
How do phone signals follow your cellphone as you travel?
What are all those lines up on your utility poles?

Scott Huler, the 2011 Piedmont Laureate for Creative Non-Fiction, wondered about all that, too. His curiosity about the many infrastructure systems that keep our towns and cities running became this interesting and easy-reading book.

Travel around Huler's hometown as you educate yourself about the grids and services that keep our level of civilization...civilized. (and watch what you flush!)

Book info: On the Grid: A Plot of Land, An Average Neighborhood, and the Systems that Make Our World Work / Scott Huler. Rodale Books, 2010 (paperback 2011). [author's website] [publisher site] [author interview]

Recommendation: What's under those manhole covers? Why are there so many different wires on the utility poles? How do cities get drinking water to every faucet?

Looking around his home in Raleigh, North Carolina, Scott Huler decided to trace all the service grids that bring safe drinking water and reliable electricity, take away unwanted stormwater and wastes, provide communication and entertainment and transportation.

Investigating one system at a time, Huler discusses land surveying, the water cycle (raincloud to river to raincloud), drinking water delivery and wastewater treatment, roads for vehicles and pedestrians, electricity generation and transmission, landline and cellular telephone services, cable and internet, garbage and recycling, and mass transit.

It takes lots of engineers, planning, technicians, and maintenance to keep these essential infrastructure services going. This raises questions about supply and demand, capacity and upgrades, and how everything gets paid for.

An interesting book that will have readers looking appreciatively at the services and utilities they use every day - and being more careful about what goes into their wastewater and stormwater systems!
(Looked intriguing, so I bought it - I was right!)

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Wonderland (fiction)

How much of the past stains our future forever?
Can having one friend make up for the scorn of everyone else?
Why does Stella leave Jude alone so often?

Jude feels like a nothing, an outcast, a scholarship kid at the snooty private high school in her teeny British town. No one would believe that she has an audition at a London drama academy...

When her best friend Stella returns, then Jude can escape this fishbowl where everyone knows your past. Stella's got to come back, doesn't she?

A gripping World Wednesday story for readers who won't shy away from Stella's reckless behavior or Jude's struggle to escape her depression.

Book info: Wonderland / Joanna Nadin. Candlewick, 2011. [author's website] [publisher site] [fan-created book trailer]

Recommendation: Stella is so much cooler than Jude, always showing up in her life just when Jude despairs of escaping her small British coastal town, the cliques at her high school, the woeful expression on her widowed dad’s face.

Jude just couldn’t get through this summer - tourists asking directions at their shop, the popular kids ignoring her at the beach, little brother Alfie’s incessant questions - without Stella’s flippant remarks, crazy fashion sense, and disdain for what people think about her. Stella had better not do one of her disappearing acts this time, though.

And the secret, in Jude’s pocket, the audition invitation from a London theater school… acting is all that she wants to do, just like her Mum, her beautiful, talented, dead mother.

As Stella’s choices get more reckless, Jude is pulled along on crazy adventures all summer. The audition goes by in a blur, the popular crowd is out to get them both, and Jude’s dad can’t quite let her go. If she had to, could Jude leave town alone? Would Stella stay with her always?

Deep secrets and worries with long memories fill this story for very mature readers, which begins with a car going off a cliff toward the sea…
(One of 5,000 books recommended on Review copy courtesy of the publisher.