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March 28, 2013 Edition

All Standing

Written by Kathryn Miles

In 1845, most of Europe was hit by the potato blight – overnight, a fetid miasma would rise up from fields of healthy potato plants as the potatoes underground dissolved into a slimy mass. Nowhere was there a bigger impact than in Ireland, where over a million people died of hunger and a million more emigrated overseas. They left in what were called “coffin ships,” because in some, as many as 70% of their passengers died before reaching their destination. In addition to examining the gruesome details of the blight and its effect on the Irish population, this tells the history of the one ship whose passengers travelled as if under an enchantment. Of the eleven Atlantic passages the Jeanie Johnston made, not a single passenger died. In fact, one was born aboard the square-rigged barque, Nicholas Johnston Reilly, whose family later settled in Minnesota. The amazing successes of the Jeanie Johnston prompted, after much study by historians, medical, and naval officials, revolutionary changes in sailing procedure, and caused her passengers to consider her captain and crew their saviors.

Picture This: how pictures work

Written by Molly Bang

Originally published in 1991, this is both delightful and informative. Bang, who writes and illustrates books for children (The Grey Lady and the Strawberry Thief, is one), has pared down the essentials of visual storytelling. Using cut paper shapes, she explores the relationships between colors, shapes, relative sizes, and other visual attributes that draw emotion out of viewers. She walks readers through an elemental form of Little Red Riding Hood by playing with a simple, bright red triangle to represent Little Red, experimenting with several different tree shapes in black (triangles, stacked triangles, and finally, tall rectangles), and uses long black triangles of many sizes to compose the wolf. This remarkable book will enhance artists’ understanding of how to create pictures that tug at readers’ emotions, and readers’ appreciation for the art that makes it happen.

Auto Upkeep

Written by Michael and Linda Gray

This would make a great gift for a novice car owner or new driver – it’s essential reading for those who grew up without a natural curiosity about cars, how they work, and how to keep them working. Written to be part of a high school or community college course on automotive upkeep, this goes step-by-step through the basics of car ownership. It begins with a chapter on how the car-buying process works, including how to do the math to figure how much you can afford to pay and choosing insurance. There are instructions on how to wash your car, how often to check fluid levels and tire pressure, and what to do with the results you get. There are instructions for changing tires, jumpstarting batteries, dealing with emergencies and accidents (including animal collisions), and troubleshooting leaks, strange sounds, and smells. You’ll find exercises on the book’s website to supplement your reading. Way too basic for some people out there, but just right for quite a few of us.

Photographic Garden

Written by Matthew Benson

Have you got a digital camera but aren’t sure how to make the best of it outdoors? Or perhaps you want to document your garden’s magnificence this year but aren’t sure how to go about it? Pick up this thorough introduction to garden photography and get started. Benson discusses the ways in which digital cameras are similar and different from human eyesight, the ways they handle light and color, and the ways you can manipulate this to your advantage. He also brings readers’ attention to composing photos, where capturing rhythm, pattern, shadow, and movement are vitally important and can take an image from ordinary to extraordinary. Postproduction work is covered here, too, starting from the ruthless pruning of images down to the ones most worthy of further adjustments, and then working with them using Adobe Lightroom and Adobe Photoshop to turn them into images that arrest the eye and tell stories. Throughout the book, Benson gives assignments and prompts that turn the information he writes about into memorable skills that will quickly become second nature.

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