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Manny Rayner's book reviews

I love reviewing books - have been doing it at Goodreads, but considering moving here.

Currently reading

The Greatest Show On Earth: The Evidence For Evolution
Richard Dawkins
R in Action
Robert Kabacoff
Fluid Concepts and Creative Analogies
Douglas R. Hofstadter
McGee on Food and Cooking: An Encyclopedia of Kitchen Science, History and Culture
Harold McGee
Epistemic Dimensions of Personhood
Simon Evnine
Pattern Recognition and Machine Learning (Information Science and Statistics)
Christopher M. Bishop
Relativity, Thermodynamics and Cosmology
Richard C. Tolman
The Cambridge Handbook of Second Language Acquisition
Julia Herschensohn, Martha Young-Scholten
La maison de Max et Lili a été cambriolée - Dominique de Saint Mars French children are lucky to have access to this excellent series! It's maybe a bit too pedagogical at times, but the author and illustrator are witty, the tone is warm and friendly, and there's usually some minor plot twist. Above all, though, it's incredibly honest and informative. I can see why children feel they can trust Ainsi va la vie ("Here's what life's like") to give them the straight scoop on things that are worrying them.

So, in this one Lili and Max's family have come home from their vacation. They open the front door and - shock! The house has been burgled. It's a complete mess, and a lot of stuff has gone, including their video games, the savings in their piggy banks and Mom's jewelery. They can't believe it.

The kids feel awful, and wake up around 2 am with nightmares. "The bad guys came in, and you weren't there protect us!" explains Lili, who may or may not realise how that sounds to Dad. They get to sleep in their parents' bed for once. They want to know why anyone would do such a thing to them. Dad explains that the burglars were probably drug addicts trying to find money to pay for their next fix. The kids think about that. They're hurt and angry.

A few nights later, Dad suddenly hears strange noises from the house next door. Possibly spurred on by Lili's comments after her nightmare, he says he's going to go check it out. Mom tells him not to be a goddam hero, but he's determined to show them. He goes out and catches the burglar red-handed! Luckily, he's not armed, and Mom's had the presence of mind to call the police before Dad's even got out of the door. They turn up and arrest the guy.

And now... what do you think happens? Do the kids get their things back? Does Dad get a reward? Does the bad guy get put behind bars? Uh-huh. This series, as already noted, is very realistic. The burglar stands trial, pleads guilty, and is given a couple of hundred hours of community service and a suspended sentence.

"What's community service?" asks Max, Lili's little brother.

"He has to clean toilets and stuff," explains Lili.

"Well, why can't he clean our toilet?" asks Max.

"You don't understand anything about Justice," says Lili, doing the big-sister act.

I LOVE these books!