written and illustrated by
RELEASE DATE: Sept. 28, 2012
Lomax (The Bess M. Gilbert Art Collection, 2012) presents a rhyming, intriguing look at Christmas traditions and legends from around the world in this first of a 12-book series.
Resplendent paintings with a vintage feel combine with poetry in this exploration of the December holiday. The singsong tone may inspire kids to request frequent rereads, despite the lack of a typical storyline. Homes covered in this edition are in Spain, Holland, Germany, Belgium, Hungary, Austria, Croatia, Poland, Ukraine and Slovenia. Some children who believe that “Santa” travels the world in one night may be confused by the fact that he visits others before Christmas Eve. The series, however, treats St. Nicholas and Santa as separate Christmas characters (Santa will be covered in volume 2). There’s also a discrepancy about who leaves gifts on Christmas Eve. For example, in Ukraine, angels leave them, not St. Nick (he visits earlier in the month). The book revives some of the cultural history of the season, while broadening children’s understanding of Christmas and the concept that not everyone does things the way they do—and everyone’s traditions are equally special. Parents or children who are especially interested in one or more of the traditions can investigate the extensive resource list at the end, which includes StNicholasCenter.org and WhyChristmas.com. Various “Did You Know?” sections offer more in-depth information, including other names for St. Nick. While interesting for adults and of value in teaching more about what St. Nick means to people living in other countries, these interruptions detract from the rhythm and tone of the text when read aloud. The book lacks perfect cohesiveness, as it rapidly jumps from country to country, but it introduces readers to new cultures in a way that shows that even though we’re not all the same, we’re not that different, either.
An occasionally confusing, yet enlightening, read for kids of all ages and from all cultures.
A highly organized, informative discussion of the immigration system in the United States.
In this politically charged environment, Afrasiabi manages to broach the volatile issue of immigration in a well-rounded, surprisingly effective framework that combines case studies, historical research, statistical analysis and personal anecdotes to detail the current issues and propose solutions. Invocations of Kafka, “The Twilight Zone” and “Alice in Wonderland” prove warranted as illustrations of the often surreal circumstances that confront immigrants facing deportation. Immigrants usually lack access to quality legal representation, while their situation can be made doubly difficult due to language barriers and significant cultural differences. Afrasiabi incorporates his work with colleagues and students at the Chapman University School of Law to deftly weave together the facts of several compelling cases and their underlying legal issues, with a genuine sense of suspense as readers wonder if justice will be truly be served. Occasionally, though, the narrative becomes overwrought—two federal laws passed in 1996 are “dark storm clouds depositing their sleet”—although, considering the life-changing effects of court decisions, it’s difficult to overstate the ramifications: extralegal rendition of individuals with pending cases and the de facto deportation of native-born children whose parents are deported. Afrasiabi also addresses the legacy of various anti-alien laws in California, as well as marriage equality for same-sex couples when one partner is a noncitizen. As the subtitle asserts, Afrasiabi employs his additional experience in the field of property law to contrast the stark differences between immigration judges and constitutional judges, like their qualifications, vetting processes and even the oaths they take. His arguments culminate in seven concrete reforms proposed in the conclusion. In order to make the immigration system more just and effective, Afrasiabi claims the solutions are closer than we may think; we can implement procedures and safeguards already in place within the constitutional courts.
A persuasive, valuable addition to the ongoing immigration reform debate.
Walkley pits CIA agents against a maniacal Saudi prince intent on starting World War III in this debut thriller.
Delta Force operative Lee McCloud, aka Mac, finds himself in Mexico, trying to rescue two teenage girls kidnapped by a drug cartel. But things go from bad to worse when the villains don’t play by the rules. Framed for two murders he didn’t commit, Mac has two options: go to prison or go to work for a CIA black-op group run by the devious Wisebaum, who hacks into terrorists’ bank accounts and confiscates millions of dollars. However, there’s more going on than meets the eye; Saudi Prince Khalid is in possession of nuclear canisters, with which he hopes to alter world history. Khalid also dabbles in trafficking young women, and harvesting and selling human organs. When Wisebaum’s black-op team targets Khalid’s father, the action becomes even more intense. With so many interweaving subplots—kidnapped girls, Israeli undercover agents, nuclear weapons and a secret underwater hideout—it could be easy to lose track of what’s going on. But the author’s deft handling of the material ensures that doesn’t occur; subplots are introduced at the appropriate junctures and, by story’s end, all are accounted for and neatly concluded. Mac is portrayed as a rough and ready action-hero, yet his vulnerabilities will evoke empathy in readers. He finds a love interest in Tally, a hacker whose personality is just quirky enough to complement his own. All Walkley’s primary characters are fleshed out and realistic, with the exception of Wisebaum—a malicious, double-dealing, back-stabber of the worst ilk; the reader is left wondering about Wisebaum’s motivations behind such blatant treachery.
Despite this, Walkley’s beefy prose and rousing action sequences deliver a thriller to satisfy any adrenaline addict.