TURNING ON THE LIGHTS

Electrifying America: From Thomas Edison to Climate Change

Written by I. David Rosenstein

The author is an engineer and lawyer who has spent more than forty years in the industry. Rosenstein begins his story in the mid-nineteenth century. He reminds readers that everyday tasks were time-consuming, back-breaking tasks before the advent of electricity. Soon electricity would transform life in the home, on the farm, in the office, in the factory, and on construction sites. Before that energy could be utilized, someone needed to invent the electric light bulb.

 

Thomas Edison already possessed a long list of inventions before tackling electricity. His work with the telegraph, telephone and phonograph had great potential. Unfortunately, Edison was a lot better at inventing than implementing his ideas in the business world. The fatal flaw in Edison’s direct current could be found in its limited ability to deliver electricity at any distance from a dynamo.

 

Nicholas Tesla had left his native Hungary to work with Edison in his lab. Edison’s insistence on using direct current led to a break when Tesla failed to convince him to consider using alternating current. Tesla left in 1885 to work independently. George Westinghouse had been experimenting with transformers to increase the voltage of alternating current over greater distances from dynamos. Westinghouse invited Tesla to use his facilities to develop a motor to use his system in factories and businesses. During the 1880’s and 1890’s, the two competing systems of AC and DC battled for supremacy in “The War of the Electric Current.”

 

After presenting the early history, Rosenstein moves on the powerful monopolies of the 1920’s, and the Golden Age of Electricity after World War II when the world turned back to business development on the home front. He talks about the failures of the industry in the Great Blackout in the Northeast in 1965 and traces the crises of the Oil Embargo of 1973 and the difficulties in California during the 90’s.

 

By the end of the 1900’s retail electric companies had begun to access electricity through a system of independent suppliers. Then the author discusses recent history and the issues leading up to climate control and the Paris accord. He ends the book by stating his opinion that a reconsideration of the concept of energy supply responding to public sentiments will likely lead to substantial changes in the future.

 

This story is an interesting study written by an expert in the field in layman’s terms. The concise book contains less than 150 pages and is easy to follow. Students who have an interest in history, electrical engineering and inventions would find this book a good resource. Recommended for anyone age ten or older.

 

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PONIES AND PRINCESSES

Magical Adventures and Pony Tales: Six Magical Stories in One Spellbinding Book

Written by Angharad Thompson Rees

A magical collection of tales that feature ponies, princesses, adventurers, and sorcerers. Each of the six tales features a type of pony, some of them are real, others are carousel ponies or rocking horses. Little girls will love the combination of princesses and magical ponies, boys can empathize with Hannan seeking his lost parents in the Sahara Desert. Six separate tales feature a well-conceived plot that is filled with an adventure and characters that young readers will find worthy of emulation. The human characters are sometimes naughty and sometimes nice. All of the ponies are personified creatures who bond with their human protagonist.

My favorite story is the first one featuring a painted pony on a carousel ride who dreams of coming to life and spending time running free in the woods. I have fond memories of jumping on my favorite carousel horse and imagining myself doing just that. One night a boy named Seb tells Stargazer about the wild ponies who run free. He dares the pony to wish for more than being trapped on the carousel. Seb encourages Stargazer to imagine, dream and believe. Then anything becomes possible. Will Stargazer achieve his newfound dreams?

I loved the enchanting characters and wonderful relationships the author creates in these tales. While the plots are fanciful, readers of all ages come away really wanting to believe. Targeted for children in grades three through six, these tales are short enough for young readers and engaging for older readers as well. My only critique lies in some formatting issues of text when reading on my Kindle HD Fire. These do not appear to be present in the paperback edition.

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A THANKLESS THANKSGIVING

A Pardon for Tommy

Written by Patricia Nmukoso Enyi

Chelsea is a college freshman who wakes to recurring nightmares. When she was twelve, Chelsea lost her home during Hurricane Katrina. She and her father were swept away by the flood waters. Chelsea has not been able to bring herself to return to New Orleans

Chelsea retells her experience. She survives the flood with the turkey her father captured for Thanksgiving Dinner in her backpack. Enyi traces Chelsea’s harrowing experiences while awaiting rescue and the reunion with her mother and brother at the Houston Astrodome. The family struggles to maintain hope that Chelsea’s dad, Max, will be found alive.

The scene shifts to adjustment to a new life in Houston at their grandmother’s home. Several subplots are included. There are New Orleans’ bullies who have also moved to the new school. Rex, their mother’s twin brother, is unwelcome at their new house. Chelsea has become attached to “Tommy,” her pet turkey. She cannot accept killing Tommy and celebrating Thanksgiving without their father. Will the family find out whether Max is alive or dead? How will the children adjust in their new home? Does “Tommy” become Thanksgiving Dinner?

The characters in the story experience typical coming of age experiences, compounded by the tragedy of this natural disaster, their father’s disappearance, a forced move, and the family’s dysfunction. This book could benefit from some editing. Transitions are not always clear, and the subplots are not fully developed. On the other hand, the author does a good job of painting the pain and trauma of the disaster. Readers need to suspend belief at times; a turkey surviving so many mishaps is a bit far fetched. On the other hand, the story is a powerful one for middle-grade and young adult audiences.

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AUTUMN ANXIETY

The Forest Painter: A Short Story

Written by Diane Mae Robinson

Deep within The Majestic Forest, a bugle call from the top of Peak Mountain has summoned the fairy sprites, the elves, and the wind weavers to perform their autumn responsibilities. But Aura, the Forest Painter, who has been designated to paint the leaves in autumn colors, feels she cannot accomplish the task. Her grandmother was the master painter. Both Aura’s grandmother and parents have already left to paint the heavens. Aura complains that she has not been prepared properly for the task. If she cannot complete her work before the frost arrives, the frost queen will claim the forest forever. Kepa urges her to ask Boreal to help, but Aura believes that Boreal once stole her grandmother’s paintbrush. Will Aura succeed in her race against time to save the trees of the forest? All the plants and animals of the forest are dependent upon her.

This twelve-page story is written with tenderness and empathy. Robinson has deftly woven personification and alliteration with a cadence of language that is charming. Written for a middle-grade audience, it is a sweet and sensitive read that will appeal to a wide range of audiences from beginning reader to adult. Perfect afternoon read to get into the spirit of the changing season.

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A LIFELONG DILEMMA

Florence Nightingale: A Life Inspired

Written by Lynn M. Hamilton

This is an interesting biography that focuses on Nightingale’s personal struggles as well as her pioneering work in nursing. Florence was born into a wealthy English Victorian family. Throughout her life, Florence was torn between what was expected of woman born to a well-to-do nineteenth-century family and her strong ties to the Unitarian Church, which demanded community service to those less fortunate in society. Her family’s wide travels in Europe allowed her to meet powerful thinkers like Victor Hugo and Alexis De Tocqueville. While her family urged her to marry, Florence resisted. By the time she was thirty-two, Florence had asserted her independence by assuming a role as superintendent of a nursing home even though she received no salary. Her service in the Crimean War revealed the serious flaws in hospital care. More soldiers died from their illnesses than in battle. Nightingale demanded that abuses like poor lighting, sanitation, and ventilation be addressed. She urged proper training for nursing students and hospital sanitation, reflecting the germ theory of illness.

I was not aware of Florence’s work in India and the depth of personal struggle she experienced between her convictions and the demands of her family. The fact that she refused to sit on her laurels and accept praise for her accomplishments, but rather be self-critical about her own mistakes and failings impressed me. Her influence on modern healthcare practices cannot be underestimated.

I recommend the book for anyone interested in learning more about the evolution of nursing and modern healthcare or to learn about the life of a remarkable, Victorian woman willing to stand up and be counted. Recommended for ages ten and older.

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HEALTHY HANDOUT

SMART HEALTH: What Today’s Doctors Aren’t Telling You

Written by Dr. Craig C. Koehler

This book is written by a chiropractor, whose personal health struggles began with a bicycle accident as a twelve-year-old child. After hitting his head on the cement, he began to experience nasal problems with sneezing and coughing. In an effort to find the cause, doctors prescribed medications, antibiotics, shots and a tonsillectomy. Five years later, he injured his back and visited a chiropractor where he learned about the connection of the nervous system with the sinuses. Koehler decided on becoming a chiropractor and dedicating himself to help patients deal with pain.

The statistics are scary. In the United States, medical misdiagnosis is the 3rd leading cause of death. Perhaps even more telling is the fact that 80% of the world’s pain-killing drugs are consumed by Americans. Relieving pain becomes more important than finding the cause of that pain. Koehler details the diseases that really are killing people and how consumers are harming themselves with sugar and junk food. By switching off what we put into the body, the natural immune systems can use good nutrition, exercise, meditation, and proper sleep habits to recharge the body. None of this these are easy tasks to accomplish. The doctor urges consumers to join up with a support team to work at establishing a system to turn unhealthy habits into a new pattern that will lead to a healthier body and a longer life.

Recommended as a good reference guide and motivational tool for anyone who desires to establish a healthier lifestyle.

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ARMED AND READY

Prince Martin Wins His Sword

Written by Brandon Hale

Illustrated by Jason Zimdars

Hale has written an original, charming chapter book that began as a way to keep in touch with his son while Hale was away from home. The book is divided into eight short chapters that are completely written in verse. Hale does not shy away from challenging vocabulary in a book that is written for the six to ten age group.

Martin is a young prince who lives in a faraway kingdom. At the beginning of the tale, Martin experiences a dream in which he fights a dragon with a loyal dog at his side. One of Martin’s favorite pastimes is visiting the castle armory, where all types of swords and weapons are stored. Unfortunately, the king permits his son to possess only a wooden staff and a slingshot, until the prince is able to prove that he is loyal, brave and true. Martin is unsure of how to do so, but he is determined to set forth out of the castle to the forest beyond.

Chapters two through eight covers the adventures that await Martin. He will meet a farmer who warns him of wild hogs, a deer whose fawn is trapped, and a brave dog who is willing to defend the helpless with his life. Martin must face his own fears as well as bullies. Will Martin find the courage and strength to survive and prove himself worthy?

The rhymes are perfect for a read aloud. Younger children might need the help of an adult to decipher some of the vocabularies. Color illustrations in each chapter enhance the adventure. This first book in a series should appeal especially to boys who love adventures, dragons, swords, and dogs. Highly recommended for elementary and middle school age children.

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