New Biographies in the Library: July, 2016

I’m going to start posting here about the books that I acquire for my library. For those of you who don’t know, I have a private subscription library in my home, mostly for homeschoolers, although others who are interested in quality books are welcome to visit or to join. I have a lot of older books that are no longer available from the public library as well as some new books that I think will stand the test of time.

Here’s an annotated list of some of the new/old books I’ve acquired (from thrift stores, used bookstores, library sales, donations) in the past month:

Harry Houdini: Young Magician by Kathryn Kilby Borland. Illustrated by Helen Ross Speicher. Childhood of Famous Americans series.

Albert Einstein: Young Thinker by Marie Hammontree. Illustrated by Robert Dorms. Childhood of Famous Americans series.

Kate Douglas Wiggin: The Little Schoolteacher by Miriam E. Mason. Illustrated by Vance Locke. Childhood of Famous Americans series.

George Eastman: Young Photographer by Joanne Landers Henry. Illustrated Rawson. Childhood of Famous Americans series.

I have a young library patron who devours these Childhood of Famous Americans series books. They are a series of somewhat fictionalized biographies of almost all of the famous Americans you can think of. They’re written on a primary grade/easy chapter book reading level, and the stories are engaging and adventure-filled. The bios focus on the childhood years of the subject, hence the series title, but do give information about each person’s adult life as well. I recommend them for second to fourth graders who want to read about real people. I find them to much more readable and “narrative” than more recent biography series for that age group, which sometimes tend to be dry and factual and focused on the adult lives of the biographical subject.

The War in Korea: 1950-1953 by Robert Leckie. World Landmark series is another great series for children and young adults, this one more middle grade level and usually about historical events or time periods, although some are biographies. I didn’t really have any books in my library about the Korean War or set during the Korean War, so I was glad to pick up this Landmark history book.

The Story of Beethoven by Helen Kaufmann. Another series, Signature Books from Grosset and Dunlap publishers. Excellent biographies written by top-notch authors.

Giants of Invention: Stories of the Men Whose Inventions Remade our World by Edgar Tharp. Illustrated by Frank Vaughn.

History’s 100 Greatest Composers: Life Stories of the Immortals of Music Selected by America’s Top Music Critics by Helen L. Kaufmann.

On a Beam of Light: A Story of Albert Einstein by Jennifer Berne. I found this more recent title, a picture book biography emphasizing Einstein’s unrelenting curiosity, at a thrift store. It’s a lovely introduction to the great scientist and his work.

Thistle Games by Mike Nicholson and Jo Litchfield

Just in time for the summer Olympics, here’s a rhyming picture book about a different kind of sports event, the Thistle Games. Subtitled “a braw Scots story for bairns,” this Picture Kelpies imprint book from Scotland gives a lovely introduction to traditional Scottish games and competitions and also to all those fun Scottish words. How many of these do you know? (The definitions are in white font, so that if you move your cursor to highlight the spaces immediately after the word, you can read the definition.)

Dour: stern, severe

Dwam: a blank or dreamy state of mind

Gie-ing it laldy: giving it energy and enthusiasm

Havering: talking nonsense (I thought it meant wanting or desiring.)

Hirple: to limp or hobble

Keek: a peek or glance

Lugs: ears

Mingin: stinky

Numpty: a silly person

Skiver: someone who dodges work

Sleekit: sneaky, cunning Isn’t this word used in that Burns poem about the mouse?

Spurtle: a short stick for stirring porridge

Stookie: a plaster cast

The fun thing is that you don’t have to memorize these words in your study of Scotland: they’re all used in the rhyming text of this rollicking good story about a community picnic, games competition, and musical event, with races, food, shopping and dancing. Unless you’re a numpty or in a dwam, you should queue up and take a keek at this braw Scots story.

Thistle, by the way, is a made-up place and the Thistle Games are imaginary, too, but real in the sense of being played by Scots, old and young. The authors have written two other “Thistle” books: Thistle Street and Thistle Sands.

Thumbelina, illustrated by Elsa Beskow

In the mail the other day, I received a review copy of Hans Christian Andersen’s Thumbelina, illustrated by famous Swedish artist Elsa Beskow. Ms. Beskow’s illustrations are justly known throughout Sweden and the world as classic artwork, both for her own books and for stories by other authors. Of course, Andersen’s story of a tiny girl “no taller than your thumb” is perfectly suited to Ms. Beskow’s lovely watercolor pictures.

This edition of Thumbelina features beautiful framed, full-page illustrations. The illustrations probably come from one of the eight (!) fairy tale collections that Elsa Beskow illustrated. Like Beatrix Potter, Ms. Beskow was a close observer of nature, and her pictures remind me of Potter’s, except larger. The “largeness” of the world, from Thumbelina’s vantage point, is portrayed quite well in this book, and a child reader will identify with Thumbelina as she travels through the countryside until she finally finds a home with the tiny King of the Fairies.

Elsa Beskow also wrote thirty-three stories of her own in Swedish, many of which have been translated into English and published along with her original illustrations. In my library I have Ollie’s Ski Trip and Pelle’s New Suit. Floris Books, the publisher of this Thumbelina, also has available and in print: Peter in Blueberry Land, The Land of Long Ago, The Sun Egg, Princess Sylvie, The Children of Hat Cottage, Emily and Daisy, Children of the Forest and many more. If you like classically styled picture book art, like the picture on the cover of Thumbelina, and then you will probably enjoy all of Ms. Beskow’s books.

The author and her husband Nathanael Beskow, a minister, had six children—all boys. I’m sure she enjoyed creating the pictures for Thumbelina and feeding the “girl-y” part of her nature, while surrounded by all those boys.

Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes by Jonathan Auxier

Peter Nimble is a blind orphan and a thief. His other senses are, of course, exceptionally sharp and perceptive. When he steals a box with three sets of magical eyes and receives a quest to travel to the Vanished Kingdom and rescue the people there, Peter Nimble is challenged beyond anything he has ever experienced in his thieving life. Maybe the Vanished Kingdom needs a blind thief, and maybe Peter Nimble needs to become a hero and find a real home.

Beautiful, humorous, and meaningful writing characterizes this fantasy adventure. The author also inserts little asides that illuminate and explain the story and the world of Peter Nimble. Here are a few sample quotes to whet your appetite:

“Now, for those of you who know anything about blind children, you are aware that they make the very best thieves. As you can well imagine, blind children have incredible senses of smell, and they can tell what lies behind a locked door – be it fine cloth, gold, or peanut brittle – at fifty paces.
Moreover, their fingers are so small and nimble that they can slip right through keyholes, and their ears so keen that they can hear the faint clicks and clacks of every moving part inside even the most complicated lock. Of course, the age of great thievery has long since passed; today there are few child-thieves left, blind or otherwise.”

“There is something wonderful that happens between true friends when they find themselves no longer wasting time with meaningless chatter. Instead, they become content just to share each other’s company. It is the opinion of some that this sort of friendship is the only kind worth having. While jokes and anecdotes are nice, they do not compare with the beauty of shared solitude.”

“If ever you have had the chance to spend quality time with a villainous mastermind, you will know that these people are extraordinarily fond of discussing their evil schemes out loud.”

“You may be thinking that his blindness is no handicap at all, and that it somehow gives him an advantage over the average seeing person. Some of you may even be thinking to yourselves, ‘Boy! I wish I were blind like the great Peter Nimble!’ If you are thinking that, stop right now. Because whatever benefits you may believe that blindness carries with it, you must understand that there are just as many disadvantages.”

Caveats: The story does include some rather violent and creepy images and episodes. There’s a murder of murderous crows who peck out Peter’s eyes and who peck another (villainous) character to death. There are gangs of evil apes and a few dangerous sea serpents. The children in the Vanished Kingdom are degraded and enslaved, and the adults are brainwashed into acquiescence. However, evil is ultimately defeated, and goodness and light win.

An interview with Jonathan Auxier in which he discusses the difficulties of writing a story from the point of view of a blind character.

Mr. Auxier also wrote The Night Gardener, another creepy tale with fantastic themes and images.

New Picture Books in the Library: July 21, 2016

I’m going to start posting here about the books that I acquire for my library. For those of you who don’t know I have a private subscription library in my home, mostly for homeschoolers, although others who are interested in quality books are welcome to visit or to join. I have a lot of older books that are no longer available from the public library as well as some new books that I think will stand the test of time.

Here’s an annotated list of some of the new/old books I’ve acquired (from thrift stores, used bookstores, library sales, donations) in the past month:

Sing in Praise by Opal Wheeler. I am familiar with Ms. Wheeler’s biographical stories of famous composers such as Bach, Beethoven, Chopin and others, but I didn’t know that she had written a book about hymns and hymn writers. In this volume, with beautiful full color and pen-and-ink illustrations, Ms. Wheeler tells the stories of such famous lyricists and musicians as Isaac Watts, Lowell Mason, Charles Wesley, and several others.

The Birds of Bethlehem by Tomie dePaola. “The story of the Nativity from a bird’s-eye view.” It’s Tomie dePaola—and an unusual Christmas story.

On A Beam of Light: A Story of Albert Einstein by Jennifer Berne. Illustrated by Vladimir Radunsky. A picture book biography of the great physicist. “And in his mind, right then and there Albert was no longer on his bicycle, no longer on the country road . . . he was racing through space on a beam light. It was the biggest, most exciting thought Albert had ever had. And it filled his mind with questions.”

D is for Democracy: A Citizen’s Alphabet by Elissa Grodin. Illustrated by Victor Juhasz. Part of a series of beautiful alphabet books from Sleeping Bear Press.

H is for Home Run: A Baseball Alphabet by Brad Herzog. Illustrated by Melanie Rose. Another in the Sleeping Bear Press series.

Daisy Comes Home by Jan Brett. A Chinese girl, Mei-Mei, raises “happy chickens” and sells their eggs in the market. The story reminds me of the classic Story of Ping because one of the chickens, Daisy, runs away from home because she’s tired of being pecked and pushed out of the nest by the other chickens. Lovely Jan Brett illustrations.

Stone Giant: Michelangelo’s David and How He Came to Be by Jane Sutcliffe. Illustrated by John Shelley. “On the front of the stone, he drew the outline of his David. Then all that was needed was to carve away what was not David. . . . Day after day Michelangelo worked furiously. Every night he went home floured with the dust of not-David. He combed bits of not-David from his beard.”

Cathedral Mouse by Kay Chorao. A small spotted mouse finds a real home in a big, beautiful cathedral. This one reminded me of Norman the Doorman by Don Freeman.

BooksBloom Seminar

Dear Homeschoolers and other bookish friends,

The BooksBloom seminar and book sale in Friendswood, TX is coming up soon. This literature-rich seminar and book sale is less than two weeks away. You need to pay your pre-registration fee of $20.00 per family by July 15th in order to be pre-registered for the seminar.

A BooksBloom seminar is an opportunity for booklovers to gather for a informal time with Gary and Jan Bloom and their wonderful books. The Blooms’ mini-bookstore of over 4,000 carefully selected used and vintage books will be also available for you to browse and purchase books.

At a BooksBloom Seminar you will receive:

• Winning arguments that flaunt the modern ideology which esteems only electronic media.

• Affirmation for your own love of books through interaction with other bibliophiles.

• Instruction on how to develop your own cost-saving resources for procuring good books

• Encouragement to cultivate a dynamic home library that meets the needs of your family.

For excellent teaching and encouragement in your literature-rich homeschool journey, plan to attend the BooksBloom seminar at Trinity Fellowship in Friendswood, Monday evening and Tuesday, July 18-19. The cost per family is only $20.00, if you pre-register before the seminar starts. And you get $15 back in store credit when you buy at least $50 worth of books from the Blooms’ excellent bookstore. If 25 or more families pre-register: everyone pre-registering gets a 25% discount on their purchase IN ADDITION to the $15 credit.

The BooksBloom Seminar in Friendswood, TX is sponsored by Meriadoc Homeschool Library. For more information or to pre-register, email me or leave a comment.

The BooksBloom schedule will look like this:

Monday, July 18th
Noon-2:00 Set up
3:00 – 6:00 Preview shopping
6:00 – 10:00 Shopping
6:30 – 7:30 First workshop “Sailing on Living Light” (Jan)
7:45-9:00 Second workshop “Keepers of the Books” (Jan)
“Gather ‘Round, Children” (Gary)
10:00 PM Close

Tuesday, July 19th
8:30 – 9:00 Open for shopping
8:30 – 1:00 Shopping
9:00 -10:00 Third workshop “Cradle to Grade: Giving your Child a Love for Books” (Jan)
“The Idiot’s Guide to Building Bookcases” (Gary)
10:30-11:30 Fourth workshop “Foundational Five: Bible stories, Fairy tales, Mother Goose, Aesop’s Fables and Mythology” (Jan)
“How to REALLY Love Your Homeschooling Wife” (Gary)
1:00 PM Close

More detailed seminar descriptions can be found at the website: BooksBloom. Please share this information with friends in the Houston area that you think might be interested. Your friends can come and shop even if they didn’t pre-register for the seminar, but they won’t get Jan’s and Gary’s seminars and won’t get the discount of $15.00 off a $50.00 purchase.

Theodosia, Daughter of Aaron Burr by Anne Colver

My daughters have become engrossed in listening to the soundtrack from the Broadway musical, Hamilton, and therefore I have listened to bits and pieces of it quite a few times over the past couple of weeks. (Warning: there’s some fairly foul language in the lyrics to the musical, as well as some lurid gossip about the main characters. On the other hand, some of the lyrics are quite funny and witty.) As one thing leads to another, I noticed this book on the shelves of my library and decided to read it. Theodosia Burr Alston was the only (legitimate)* daughter of Aaron Burr, who figures prominently in the life and, of course, death of Alexander Hamilton.

Anne Colver wrote this book for children or young adults, and it was published in 1941. The content is largely pro-Burr, although various characters can’t help speculating that Burr may have lost at least some of his reason and judgment after the duel with Hamilton. Aside from murdering Hamilton, Burr does do other fantastical and ill-judged things: in particular he becomes involved in a plot to invade Mexico and either to deliver it to the United States or to set up a rival empire with Aaron Burr as emperor.

We see Aaron Burr in the book from the point of view of the adoring Theodosia. Her love never fails. She always believes in her father, always expects the best of him, always stands her ground in defending him. However, Theodora’s husband, Joseph Alston, makes a telling statement about his father-in-law, which becomes the summary judgment of this take on Aaron Burr: “It’s hard to pity a man who can never admit he’s been mistaken. Your father has so much to make him a great man, Theo. He has brilliance and ambition and energy. And magnificent courage. But he has more pride than any man is entitled to in this world.”

And yet, Theodosia, and the readers of this lightly fictionalized biography of Theodosia Burr Alston are impelled to pity Theodosia and her infamous father by the end of the book. He almost became president, but he was also thwarted and insulted at every turn by Alexander Hamilton and his political allies. Burr lost his wife (also named Theodosia) during Washington’s presidency. He endured Hamilton’s calumnies for many years without reply. Then, came the duel, which Burr initiated, and the people of New York were so incensed at Burr that he felt he had to leave the country. And he owed so many debts that he fled with hardly any money to France where he lived in near-poverty. Then, after the Southwestern Empire debacle, Theodosia’s only child, a son named for his grandfather, died of a fever. And in the final tragedy of the book, Theodosia set out from Charleston to travel by ship to New York to visit her aging and still beloved father, but the ship she was on never arrived. Lost at sea.

I don’t really know what to think about Aaron Burr or his daughter. Anya Seton wrote a novel, My Theodosia, also published in 1941, which apparently paints a much different picture of Burr and his daughter. I haven’t read Seton’s novel, but according to Wikipedia Seton portrays a traitorous and hugely ambitious Aaron Burr and again, an adoring and manipulable Theodosia. Burr offers his daughter the opportunity to become Princess of the Western American Empire, and young Theodosia has a brief romance with Meriwether Lewis, thwarted by her protective father. I prefer the Colver version of Theodosia and her father, but I’m not at all sure what is actually accurate or true.

And so the Burrs remain an enigma to some extent, but fascinating nevertheless.

*I went on a bit of a rabbit trail after reading the Wikipedia article about Aaron Burr, which stated that he had two illegitimate children with his East Indian servant, Mary Emmons. These two children, John (Jean) Pierre Burr and Louisa Charlotte Burr, grew up to become influential members of the free black community in Philadelphia, and Burr’s grandson, Frank J. Webb, wrote the second African American novel ever to be published. What would Jonathan Edwards, the Puritan preacher and Aaron’s Burr’s grandfather, have thought of his illustrious, infamous grandson and his progeny?

Teaching from Rest by Sarah Mackenzie

Teaching from Rest: A Homeschooler’s Guide to Unshakable Peace by Sarah Mackenzie. Sarah produces the podcast, Read-Aloud Revival.

“[W]e have been blessed and loved by a God who even enables us to love our enemies. Surely if we can love our enemies, then we can love the laundry, or Latin, or math studies.”

This book was good for reminding homeschool moms, in particular, to slow down, get rest, and not sweat the small stuff. Most of it really is small stuff. Sarah MacKenzie has some specific advice that would be quite liberating and well, restful, were the right people to take her advice. I find that the people who are too loose and carefree in their homeschooling don’t need the advice to “loosen up and rest”, and those who are too structured and perfectionistic will have trouble listening to a message that tells them not to worry and just be happy. But some of us who are in-between might be able to take Ms. Mackenzie’s words to heart.

For example, her “Five Ways to Simplify the Curriculum” are no real revelation, but they are solid, good advice:

1. Do less: “What most curricular models provide today is a survey of everything and mastery in nothing, so our children get an education that is a mile wide and an inch deep. That’s not true eduction. We need to lead our children out of the shallows in order to dive into the deep.”

2. Integrate: “Realize that when you are reading aloud from The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood, you are not just doing literature. If you read it slowly, enjoying it, taking time to contemplate the ideas and discuss them with your kids, you are taking on history, geography, writing, vocabulary, theology, and philosophy as well. This isn’t dabbling; it’s wrestling.”

3. Understand the limitations of published resources: “Remember that the published resources are to be weirded by you, not to rule over you. . . . We are teaching people, not books.”

4. Bake in review time. Plan ahead for “times of reassessment as the year progresses.” Ms. Mackenzie says, “Doing so helps me progress through daily, consistent work without falling prey to frenzy, anxiety, or an impulsive change in the curriculum.”

5. Remember the point: “A child who loves and hates what he ought is a truly educated child—and that is the larger ‘point’ of education.

Nothing really new or ground-breaking in this book of good old-fashioned maxims similar to the above, but then I’m getting old and crochety and suspicious of new and ground-breaking advice. Sarah Mackenzie encourages homeschool moms to remember their roots, trust their instincts and teach from rest. Not a bad reminder at all. And quite restful.

Exit, Pursued by a Bear by E.K. Johnston

I have very mixed feelings about this book. First of all, it deals with a subject that is timely and necessary and at the same time horrible and unsavory. I wish it would go away, but it won’t, and ignoring it won’t make it not be. The subject is rape and sexual assault. If you don’t want to read a book about a girl who is raped and who not only survives but also refuses to be a victim, you can certainly come at the subject from another direction and another perspective. But the subject itself is unavoidable.

Who hasn’t heard about the Stanford sexual assault case and the terrible miscarriage of justice there that dominated the news a week or two ago? Exit, Pursued by a Bear tells a story similar to that of the Stanford case, except that Hermione Winters, the victim in this story, is an individual (as are all rape and sexual assault victims). She doesn’t just become “that girl who was raped” because this terrible thing happened to her, although the rape does change her life, make her life different, stronger in some ways, weaker in others. One thing that the story makes clear is that everyone deals with the aftermath of a sexual assault in their own individual way; there is no right or wrong way to react, no one way to recover or survive.

And yet, the book certainly hints strongly that there is only one way to deal with an unwanted pregnancy that is the result of a rape. Hermione decides to have an abortion when she finds out that she is pregnant, and no one dares to question that choice or speak for the unborn child. I doubt I would dare to do so myself, were I to be confronted with a teenage girl who had been raped and who was determined to abort the child who was conceived in that act. The subject is too fraught, too horribly conflicting and traumatic, for anyone to give glib advice or to moralize. Nevertheless, without the pain and the emotion of such a tragedy clouding my judgment, I can still say that the baby is not to blame for the father’s crime. The child is still a child and deserves to live, no matter what. Is it a difficult and painful decision? Yes. Does it help anyone to compound the tragedy of sexual assault/rape by adding to it the death of an innocent child? No, I don’t believe it does.

So many good things about this novel. Hermione Winters refuses to be just another victim, just another case number. She has the love and support of friends and family. She doesn’t deny the changes in herself and her life and her relationships, but she does not let the rape define who she is or limit what and who she can become. Trauma is real and evident in Hermione’s story, but so is recovery and even forgiveness, if not for the rapist, at least for those friends who fail to support Hermione because of their own conflicting emotions and reactions.

However, there are several not so good things about the novel, too: an unexamined, almost obligatory, decision for abortion, the stereotypical gay friend who is, of course, the secondary heroine of the story, and the ending, which was strangely unsatisfying and almost unbelievable. I was appalled and saddened by the “ending” of the the real-life Stanford sexual assault case, and I would like to see a book on this subject at least allows room for a pro-life perspective or that shows a person dealing with the aftermath of rape or sexual assault without the added pro-abortion messaging.

The Book of Strange New Things by Michael Faber

I am reading this book because Modern Mrs. Darcy recommended it to someone on her podcast. The premise is interesting: Peter is going to the planet Oasis as a missionary to the people who inhabit the planet. He is sent by a corporation called USIC to take the gospel to the Oasans.

I’m about halfway through the book. Maybe all of the following issues are resolved and explained in the second half, but right now I have some burning questions about our protagonist missionary and his mission. Some things just do not compute.

1. Peter’s mission. How does Peter even know that the Oasans need the gospel? Are they sinful creatures, in rebellion against the Creator? Do they need forgiveness and redemption? Maybe they already know God and walk in perfect fellowship with Him. Maybe not.

2. Which brings me to the second problem, Peter’s ignorance. Our missionary, Peter, is remarkably naive and unquestioning. He knows nothing or almost nothing about the people/creatures he is planning to evangelize. He knows next to nothing about the planet Oasis. He doesn’t even know what the initials OSIC stand for. When he does ask a few tentative questions, he is stonewalled. And still he allows this corporation that he knows nothing about to send him millions of miles away to a planet he knows nothing about to minister to a people he knows nothing about.

3. Problem #3: Peter’s and Bea’s marriage, which is supposed to be the central theme of the novel. They are said and shown to be very close, in a very loving and inter-dependent marriage. Yet, not only does Peter leave Bea to go to a planet far, far, away for an indeterminate length of time, but when he has the opportunity to email her, to answer her plea for details about his mission, to reassure her that he is there and that he still cares for her, Peter can’t manage to write much more than a few sentences at a time, every two or three weeks. This ostensibly strong marriage falls apart in short order. Maybe the point is to remind us of our bodies, that we are embodied creatures, very dependent on physical intimacy to maintain emotional and spiritual intimacy?

4. There’s a mystery about the Oasans and their relationship to OSIC and their relationship to Jesus. I get that there’s a mystery. And that part will probably get resolved. But what in the world is going on with OSIC supplying these non-human creatures with pharmaceuticals? They haven’t examined these “Oasans” and don’t even know how they look on the outside, much less their body chemistry and physiology, but they’re giving them antibiotics, analgesics, and other medicines that have been tested on humans but never on Oasans? Wouldn’t that be unethical and highly dangerous—or else maybe ineffective? And no one is questioning the ethics or the efficacy of this “drug drop”?

5. The people who work for OSIC come across as very amateurish and untrained. Oh, they have engineering degrees or mining expertise, but they don’t seem to know much about Oasis or the overall mission of OSIC or anything besides their own narrow job skills. And that mission, whatever it may be, looks as if it’s thrown together by a bunch of amateur NASA wannabes. No astronaut or cross-cultural missions training for Peter, no details or background education for any of the other OSIC workers. The Oasans want drugs? OK, give them whatever we have left over. The Oasans want to hear more about Jesus? OK, hire a missionary. There’s this flower that grows here and is good for food? OK, let’s eat it. It rains a lot on this planet? OK, drink up.

I just finished reading The Martian by Andy Weir before I started this book, and no doubt the previous book colored my reading of another space travel science fiction book, The Book of Strange New Things. Peter the Missionary and his cohorts just are so very amateur and unprepared compared to the protagonist in The Martian. Mark Watney, the astronaut who is stranded alone on Mars, knows how to fix almost anything, and he has been trained to the nth degree. By comparison, Peter the Missionary looks like a child wandering in the dark. Maybe The Book of Strange New Things is meant to make Christians look like credulous fools, except that Peter comes across as really intelligent, but also gullible and unquestioning. I won’t really know until I finish the book.

So, have any of you read either The Martian or The Book of Strange New Things? What did you think? Are you frustrated, as I am, at Peter’s lack of curiosity and his credulous nature? And on the other book, does anyone believe that even a NASA-trained engineer could survive what Mark Watney survives in The Martian? I wouldn’t have have made it five minutes–even if I had all the NASA training that Mark Watney had.