We Are Not Yet Equal

we are not yet equal.pngIn 2016, Carol Anderson shocked readers with her book White Rage which revealed the insidious and often hidden racism underlying laws and institutions in the United States. Here, she and Tonya Bolden have adapted the book for a young adult audience. The well-written and engaging book begins in the aftermath of the Civil War and continues through the Obama Presidency and traces the lost opportunities for providing equality to all. Over and over again, the United States reaches a fulcrum, a moment in history, where inequities could be redressed: the Civil War, Brown v. Board of Education, the Civil Rights Era, the Obama Presidency. Rather than use those watershed moments to boldly and justly address past wrongs, the government, supported by a large swath of white citizens, undermines the gains to maintain the status quo of white supremacy.

For example, instead of holding Civil War rebels to account, the federal government under Lincoln and Johnson prioritized reunification. Oppressive Black Codes went unchallenged by the federal government. Johnson in particular stymied efforts of Congress to redress the evils from centuries of slavery. Though Congress overturned his vetoes of legislation of the Freedmen’s Bureau Bill and the Civil Rights Bill in 1866, Johnson’s pardon of Southern rebels meant that their elected representatives were leaders from the Confederacy. Poll taxes and unfavorable decisions by the Supreme Court undermined efforts to provide rights to blacks.

After reading this book, I feel completely and utterly gutted and outraged at the lack of justice and compassion reflected in the actions of the country’s leaders, lawmakers, and many citizens. Although there was a time that new racism was disguised by an ideology supporting color-blindness, under Trump, spewing hate based on race has become acceptable once more.

I learned so much. While I knew that Southern states were resistant to the Brown decision, I didn’t realize the lengths to which they went to prevent integration. Several students were without education for years while local and state governments delayed implementation. Though I was aware of the challenges to voting rights through voter ID laws, many of the specific examples presented here were new to me.

Sadly, I became disillusioned with Presidents Lincoln and Eisenhower, Lincoln for failing to name slavery as the cause of the Civil War and Eisenhower for failing to use the power of his office to enact the Brown decision. Nixon and Reagan’s racist policies disguised as tough-on-crime stances were not surprising. I also didn’t know the extent of the Supreme Court’s role in undermining progress. With some exceptions, like Brown, their rulings weakened protections of the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments, undercut the Voting Rights Act, and rang a death knell for affirmative action.

I regret not reading White Rage before We Are Not Yet Equal because I can’t compare them. I can attest that the latter is an important stepping-stone to dialogue on ways to halt this chain of oppression. Although written for a young adult audience (and seems appropriate for such an audience in terms of content and language), adults will find it enlightening as well. The material presented in the book is important and necessary.

Although I have few criticisms of the book, I did find the chapter on the Voting Rights Act more technical and less engaging than the other chapters, though the information was important. I thought the weakest chapter was on Obama’s administration. Though it related the rancor and disrespect Obama faced, it seemed to be less grounded in research than the rest of the book. Perhaps my biggest complaint though is that there is no guidance on where to go from here. The author ends with hope that knowing about white rage can lead to a challenge of its racist consequences, but offers nothing beyond that. Maybe it will be the subject of her next book–and I would definitely read it!

Thank you to Netgalley and Bloomsbury Publishing, Inc. for an advance reader’s copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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Instructions for a Funeral

Instructions for a Funeral.jpg

David Mean’s short story collection, Instructions for a Funeral, contains provocative and heart-wrenching stories about fatherhood, relationships, addiction, and regret. The title story, “Instructions for a Funeral” finds William Kenner delineating his last wishes to his lawyer and in so doing relating a betrayal by a friend and an encounter with organized crime. In “Terminal Artist,” the narrator learns that a friend he thought had died from complications from surgery during cancer treatment might have instead been the victim of an “angel of mercy.” After challenging a rich town boy to a fight for saying he hated Okies, ranch hand Frankie catches the eye of Sarah Breeland who saw in him a complicated kindness.

Two sets of stories are interconnected; the rest stand alone. However, the stories share common themes, one being a sense of fate, destiny, or premonition and how memory can retroactively give certain events or moments significance. For example, one character considers the time immediately before learning his wife had an affair: “On the penultimate day, as I now think of it, the point through which the rest of my life with Sharon would seem to bow, or, rather, bend, so that everything that transpired after that afternoon seemed to lead to the day when Sharon confessed to me, admitted that, yes, she had been seeing X, but that she had broken it off with him, let go of him, was how she put it.” Forgiveness also appeared in multiple stories as did the creation of stories. Ultimately, all the stories seemed to have thematic cohesion with the exception of El Morro which didn’t fit as well in the collection.

Overall, I liked the writing style, but I did find some devices the author used to be distracting at best, at worst, irritating. In multiple stories, the phrase “I thought, I think” or a close variation is used a total of ten times. Although it points to the fallibility of memory and furthers the theme, the sheer volume of the phrase made it lose meaning. Another frequent device was a parenthetical comment followed by an exclamation point (e.g., “I still despise that phrase!” or “Yes, fucking navels!”) which I found off-putting. Finally, the sentences and the paragraphs were unduly long. I found myself frequently rereading because I’d get lost in the prose. As I progressed through the book, I got more accustomed to the style, but it did make for a challenging reading experience.

I wasn’t sure if we were to assume the same person narrated all the stories, but in any case, in many stories, the narrator was a writer and meditated on the art of writing (with two stories explicitly about writing). In “Terminal Artist,” for example, the narrator reflects, “I’d never be able to use her death in a story. I’d have to find some other way, I thought.” Several times, this idea of using the events in the narrative in a story arises. On the one hand, it is interesting to think of how stories are constructed from real-life events and then are manipulated and reformed by the author, but the idea came up so often, it felt overdone and lost effectiveness.

That said, I enjoyed the collection and came away feeling touched. Ultimately, it was through the stories and the retelling that the events gained meaning or, as Means describes it, provides a state of “deeper grace.”

Thank you to Netgalley and Farrar, Straus and Giroux for providing an advance reader’s copy in exchange for an honest review.

Grass

Grass by Sheri TepperGrass by Sheri S. Tepper

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

According to the dominant, ruling religion, Sanctity, the plague doesn’t exist. Yet, people on every planet are dying from a virulent virus. Every planet, that is, except one, Grass, notoriously suspicious of anything or anyone coming from “elsewhere.” Desperate, the Hierarch sends his nephew Roderigo “Rigo” Yrarier and his family, Marjorie Westriding, Anthony, and Stella–even though they are Old Catholics–to learn what makes Grass different in the hopes of finding a vaccine or cure. As avid horse people, Sanctity believes, the Yrariers have the best chance possible of bonding with the bons, the Grass aristocracy, since the bons are obsessed with riding and hunting. They begin training with a riding master at a young age until they are ready to join the hunt.

As Rigo becomes ensnared in the local mania for the hunt, Marjorie, intuitive, wise, yet remote, seeks out answers that will save the universe. She befriends bon Sylvan bon Damfels, commoner, master carver Persun Pollut, and Sanctity penitents Brothers Mainoa and Lourai as she navigates the closed and secretive society of the bons. What she learns could save humanity–or hasten its demise.

Although the book started out slowly for me, and I worried about reading a book where a ritualized hunt was so dominant, I found that once Marjorie’s character was introduced, I became engrossed in the narrative. Underneath the compelling mystery of curing the plague lies a number of themes, many of which are echoed in Tepper’s other works. On Terra (earth), at least, governments are dominated by religious rule, certainly not to the benefit of women or lower socioeconomic classes, and the book challenges theocracy. Religion is also a means of reproducing patriarchy. As Father Sandoval councils Marjorie when she complains of Rigo’s infidelity, a wife’s obedience will solve problems in a marriage. Sanctity was completely devoid of women except as reproductive vessels. Brother Mainoa minces no words: “The shitheads are wrong…Not just a little bit wrong, but irremediably, absolutely, and endemically wrong.” While Grass is largely secular, tradition demands male dominance. In the book, men are driven to demonstrate their masculinity, as is evidenced by Rigo’s seduction to Hunt, but the costs are high. The book also criticizes those who endlessly debate ethical positions while failing to act and questions the limits of duty and mercy.

While some passages were slightly heavy-handed and the science was confusing (at least to me), I enjoyed reading the book once I got over my initial resistance. It’s definitely a must for those interested in feminist science fiction.

View all my reviews

The Healing Power of Mindfulness

healing power of mindfulness.pngThe Healing Power of Mindfulness was originally published as parts V and VI of Jon Kabot-Zinn’s 2005 classic book Coming to Our Senses. This volume is updated and with a new foreword by the author. In it, Kabot-Zinn relates the powerful connection between mindfulness and healing which he describes as coming to terms with things as they are, not clouded by emotions or narratives that might inhibit our awareness of the present moment. This healing through mindfulness practice promotes a number of positive physical and emotional outcomes.

Although the book was very interesting and inspiring, it wasn’t what I expected. I thought there might be practical instructions on using mindfulness to heal emotionally and physically, but this is not a how-to book. The basics of mindfulness meditation are covered in other volumes in the set as well as in print, online, and virtual resources listed at the close of the book. Instead, The Healing Power of Mindfulness discusses the ways mindfulness meditation promotes positive outcomes. It provides the answer to why one should commit to a practice of mindfulness.

My favorite chapters are those that are concrete and/or based firmly in Kabot-Zinn’s personal experience. Relating to physical healing, I enjoyed reading about Christopher Reeve’s remarkable resilience after the horse-riding accident that paralyzed him. Though his doctors believed he would show no improvement, he persisted until he felt the wiggle of a single finger. Even when he didn’t experience the outcomes he’d hoped for, he always felt that doctors could learn from the process and help others with spinal injuries. Poignantly, the author relates his experience with his father’s Alzheimer’s and how that inspired him even more to be present in the moment. One study showed that patients with psoriasis who engaged in guided meditations during phototherapy, needed much less time to remove skin eruptions than did patients in the control condition.

The book also deals with emotional or spiritual healing. One chapter, for example discusses neuroplasticity and how mindfulness can actually change the processes in our brains to promote habits of being (or non-being) associated with positive emotions. A mindfulness practice can reduce stress. It can even help prepare us for death, our ultimate and inevitable fate.

Mindfulness also applie beyond the realm of the individual. Kabot-Zinn discusses how organizations (which he calls orthogonal institutions) can promote a spirit of mindfulness. Using dialogue instead of discussion embraces the ideal of mindfulness and can heal relationships and conflicts between people, groups, and even countries. After attending a Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction workshop, a judge who instructed jurors before a trial to listen with mindfulness. If only that would happen more!

Though the text was taken from a book published in 2005, it doesn’t feel dated at all. Kabot-Zinn has updated references. When discussing the Super Bowl and the Patriots, he reflected on the team’s more recent successes. The same chapter lauds Colin Kaepernick’s efforts to bring awareness and justice to black victims of police violence.

The book is very dense in some places, and I felt like I had to read some sections multiple times (and maybe need to read again). At times, Kabot-Zinn used very complex (and long) sentences that added to the feeling. Although the book stands on its own, I think it would be more comprehensible after reading the other books in the series. For example, the body scan was mentioned several times, and though I am familiar with it from other sources, the practice itself was described in an earlier volume. If you didn’t know the premise, those sections would be inexplicable.

I am not consistent meditating or practicing mindfulness, but this book certainly has inspired me to recommit to a mindfulness practice!

Thank you to Netgalley and Hatchett Books for an advance reading copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Happy Veggies by Mayumi Oda

Happy Veggies.pngIn 2005, Richard Louv coined the phrase Nature Deficit Disorder. Although not a recognized medical disorder, it’s easy to see that many of us spend a significant amount of time indoors and are alienated from nature. Some studies indicate that being disconnected from nature is associated with anxiety, depression, and obesity while direct experience of nature promotes creativity, problem solving, focus, and physical health.

Long before 2005, I joined the ranks of those alienated from nature. It’s not that I don’t like the outdoors; I find it beautiful. I just don’t always want to be outside in the outdoors. Along with this comes a disconnect with the source of our food. Recently, I took a completely unscientific quiz assessing how much I knew about the way food grew. Was it from a tree, a bush, or the ground? Needless to say, I did not perform well.

Happy Veggies promotes a connection with the outdoors and shows how popular vegetables like corn, carrots, beans and tomatoes grow. The text introduces the food through the seasons: asparagus and onions in spring; eggplants and beans in the summer; corn and pumpkins in fall; and root vegetables in the winter. We see also creatures who live in the garden such as bees, butterflies, worms, and moles. As winter ends, the cycle renews.

Mayumi Oda’s illustrations are lovely. To me, they draw from the rich tradition of Japanese art. The vegetables are primarily shown in close up, both what they look like above and below the ground, and sometimes below the ground is as or more colorful as what’s seen above. Even though I’m not a fan of onions, the illustration of purple and yellow onions is so stunning, I would put a poster of it on my wall.

I liked the text less than the illustrations. Some of the pages rhymed, some did not. At times, the story talked to the reader: “Do you want to meet Mother Nature?” and “Potatoes are a garden’s heart. Can you hear them?” But other times, the text was directed to the vegetables themselves as when it exhorted beans to “Grow, grow!” Consequently, the book did cohere as well as it could have.

The style is rather dreamy and talks of angels visiting the garden and corn popping from the stalk (which I don’t think can happen normally!). I wondered if the style and these images would not bring children closer to Mother Nature but make her seem unreal.

That said, Happy Veggies is a valiant effort to teach children how their food grows and promote a connection to the natural world. It’s especially worth perusing for the stunning artwork.

Thank you to Netgalley and Parallax Press for providing an electronic copy of Happy Veggies in exchange for an honest review.

 

Firefly by Henry Porter

Thank you to Netgalley, Grove Atlantic/Mysterious Press, and Henry Porter for providing an advance reading copy in exchange for my honest opinion. Quotations may not reflect the final published book.

A thirteen-year-old Syrian boy, code-named Firefly, begins an arduous journey from a Turkish refugee camp hoping to reach Europe and bring his family to safety, away from the darkness and devastation of his home country. But this precocious boy possess valuable information about a terrorist cell that can prevent a terrorist attack. When the English Special Investigative Service learns of Firefly, they enlist ex-agent Paul Samson, an Arabic speaker and former refuge from Lebanon, to track him, gain his trust, and learn what he knows. Samson is aided by the beautiful and brilliant psychologist Anastasia who works at the Lesbos refuge camp and has witnessed the horror experienced by migrants as well as Vuk, an “unusual but reliable” and usually drunk Serbian fixer. Unaware of Samson’s efforts to rescue him, Firefly follows the dangerous migrant trail where he faces assault, betrayal, disappointment, and despair. He’s joined by the carefree Ikfar and his loyal dog Moon as he races to the Macedonian-Serbian border. But the terrorists want Firefly’s information badly and will kill to retrieve it. Challenged by the weather and terrain, Samson fights to stay ahead of the terrorists and protect Firefly who has his own reasons for remaining hidden.

Firefly excels at conveying the experiences of refugees, particularly those without proper documentation and minors. From harrowing water crossings to overcrowded camps and transit stations, the sights, sounds, and smells are vividly depicted. Firefly encounters myriad fellow travelers from various countries who are all hoping for a better life at the end of the migrant trail. Smugglers take advantage of the desperate while NGOs and relief agencies attempt to improve the conditions of the people in their care.

The pressures on the host countries also come into play. Borders are constantly being opened or closed; transportation is unreliable. Yet, the refugees continue to come. Anastasia “concluded rather bitterly that whatever happened, it would always fall to the Greek islands to deal with the influx. ‘They are drowning in our seas, crawling up our beaches, and that isn’t going to stop soon,’ she said. ‘Just because Europe has suddenly decided that these people are not wanted doesn’t mean they aren’t going to give up getting on those little rafts. They have nothing to lose –there’s nothing where they come from.”

As Samson trails Firefly, he encounters the bureaucracy of intelligence agencies from multiple European countries and sees the politics and behind the scenes negotiating at play. Priorities shift and develop depending on which agencies have the upper hand.

All this is fascinating, and I don’t recall a book that presents as complete and harrowing a picture of refugee migration, particularly from a boy’s perspective. It is heartbreaking to know these conditions are far from fiction and that so many people struggle to leave war-torn and ravished areas for a peaceful existence.

The book is also action-packed and suspenseful. For two days, I hardly put it down, and I certainly was glued to it for the last quarter. As comprehensive as the book is in terms of representing a refugee’s experience, it never detracts from the narrative or bogs down the story. Each detail seems essential for the whole. For the most part, I liked the writing style and thought it was written well, although I did find that the transitions between sections focusing on Firefly and those focusing on Samson were abrupt and awkward. It’s possible that in the final version of the book, the book design will provide a better indication of when the story changes perspective.

Firefly was an interesting and sympathetic character, and I couldn’t help but like him and hope for the best for him. At the same time, I wondered if he was unrealistically precocious. He is presented in completely positive terms which feels inauthentic. For being a central character, I thought Samson was underdeveloped and I would like to have had more backstory for him. It was illustrative to have characters of so many nationalities with speaking so many languages, and it was interesting how language served to bind or separate characters.

While this would fall into the thriller/suspense categories and is worth reading on that alone, I would encourage anyone interested in learning more about refuges, especially from Syria, to read this book. Although I’ve read books that have incisive portrayals of refugee camps I felt like I had a greater understanding of the challenges refugees face in transit after reading this book.

Broken Ground by Val McDermid

Broken Ground by Val McDermidThank you to Netgalley and Grove Atlantic for providing an Advance Reader’s Copy in exchange for an honest review.

Alice Somerville and her husband travel to the Scottish Highlands to excavate her inheritance–two Indian Scout motorcycles from World War II that her grandfather and his mate, Kenny, had stolen and buried rather than see destroyed after the Americans left Scotland. However, the Somervilles unexpectedly uncover a body, a man wearing Nikes, who was presumed murdered.

Karen Pirie and her Historic Crimes Unit, Jason “The Mint” Murray and newcomer to the team Gerry McCartney, a Detective Sergeant added to the unit by Assistant Chief Constable Ann Markie, take over the investigation.The book follows Pirie as she learns the identity of the murder victim and traces his killer. Woven into the narrative is not only a caper from World War II but also a domestic violence incident that might be more than it seems as well as an inquiry into violent rapes that occurred in the 1980s. Pirie must contend with aging evidence, long-forgotten memories, and obstinate colleagues while trying to provide answers to grieving families. Unconcerned with politics yet eager to achieve justice for the victims, Pirie can be her own worst enemy.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book which is well-written and expertly paced. The book includes crimes from four different time lines: the WWII motorcycle theft, the 1980s rapes, the murder of the man wearing Nikes, and the contemporary domestic violence incident. In lesser hands, this could be confusing or overdone, but here it is fascinating. Perhaps my biggest (and sole) complaint about plot is that Pirie seems to figure out certain elements of the mystery without having much information.

Being set in Scotland made the book more interesting to me. I’ve read other Scottish detective novels and it was fun to compare and contrast the treatment hallmark Edinburgh highlights. Descriptions of the Highlands made me want to travel there! I will say, though, there were lots of British words I had to look up!

For the most part, Pirie was a sympathetic and engaging character, and The Mint was entirely endearing. Some of the other characters, though, particularly DS McCartney and ACC Markie, seemed to be be one-note foils for Pirie instead of well-developed in their own right. Peripheral characters had what I imaged to be compelling backstories that might be in play in other books in the series. Even so, it is not necessary to read the other books to enjoy this novel. In fact, this is my first Inspector Karen Pirie novel. I don’t know how I didn’t know about the books before, but I’m eager to read the first four books, I enjoyed Broken Ground so much.

Vegan Yack Attack on the Go

Vegan Yack Attack on the Go: Plant-Based Recipes for Your Fast-Paced Vegan Lifestyle

Jackie Sobon

©️2018

Thank you to Netgalley and Quarto Publishing for providing an electronic copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

I am a disaster in the kitchen. I don’t enjoy cooking or baking, and I often screw up recipes. When I saw this book, with a mission to provide “a wide variety of meals that are fun, tasty, and quick to put together,” I thought, “This book gets me!”

Like many vegan cookbooks, the introduction begins with a list of essential pantry staples and necessary kitchen equipment (nothing a normally stocked kitchen is likely to be without).

Vegan Yack Attack on the Go includes a number of delicious-sounding recipes paired with stunning food photography. I haven’t had quiche since I became vegan over ten years ago, and the Crustless Quiche Bites caught my attention.

I would like to eat some of the White Bean Rosemary Hummus this minute! For me, the thirty minute or less chapter is perfect…One Pot Pasta, Summer Stew, and Butternut Mac and Trees are on my menu. The Baked Balsamic Tofu over Mixed Greens makes my mouth water.

The cookbook includes food I would never image but want to make: Campfire Banana Splits, Pastry-Wrapped Carrot Dogs, and Peanut Butter S’mores Dip are treats to take to barbeques or pot luck dinners. Few cookbooks devote a chapter to these dishes that can be taken to foodcentric social events, and it’s nice to have a wide selection here.

The instructions for the dishes are clear and simple. I think even I could be successful following these recipes! None of the ingredients seem obscure or difficult to find in a grocery store. What makes the cookbook unique, though, is the emphasis on simplicity, meal planning and making in advance, and portability.

Sobon provides guides that appear with each recipe: less than ten ingredients (definitely up my alley), one-pan (all right!), portable, make-ahead, and sugar/soy/nut/oil/gluten free.

I definitely think this will be a much-used cookbook in our house!

The Burglar by Thomas Perry

Thank you to Netgalley, Grove Atlantic/Mysterious Press, and Thomas Perry for providing an advance reading copy in exchange for my honest opinion. Quotations may not reflect the final published book.

Elle has spent most of her life surviving through her wits and what she could steal. She now makes her living burglarizing expensive homes in Bel Air and Beverley Hills. Skillful and smart, she’s never been arrested or noticed, and few people know her profession. But one morning, she broke into the wrong house. Instead of finding cash, guns, and jewelry, she found three dead bodies, naked in a pile on the bed. What’s more, a video camera had been recording and captured her entering the room. Elle stole the camera, thinking she was protecting herself. Instead, she became a target–but she didn’t know if she was being chased by the police or a more sinister organization. To save herself, she has to solve the murders before she becomes the next victim.

Having the burglar as a protagonist in a murder mystery is interesting and offers some new and exciting approaches to crime solving. However, at times, the descriptions of Elle’s process are a little too detailed. The book is very fast-paced and got my heart rate pumping, especially in the first third of the book. I could hardly put it down last night to go to sleep. It was like reading an action movie, and one tense moment led to another, complete with car chases, double-crosses, secret cameras, and near-misses with the police.

With all the details of casing a house, entering, and finding valuables, not to mention surveillance of characters, I feel thoroughly paranoid now!

Elle is an interesting character. Raised by her grandmother who seems like she was a manipulative sort, Elle was forced to go out on her own when she was fourteen, and she has few family ties left. She’s extremely self-reliant, hyper-aware, physically fit, and an expert burglar. Sometimes, she takes unnecessary risks that seem out of character. In the first chapter, she describes walking a friend’s dog in the neighborhoods she’s targeting so she will know where the dogs live and then avoid breaking into those houses. Yet, she runs to danger several times after she begins her investigation into the murders. Though she clearly is an accomplished thief, she has so many other abilities, it stretches the imagination. She is able to use a welding torch and do simple electrical wiring. Though she does at one point admit that her overconfidence put her best friend into harm’s way, she doesn’t become more reflective of her limitations or the wisdom of her actions.

At times, I didn’t like the writing style. Too many paragraphs had sentences that began with “She…” instead of offering variety in the language. When Elle listed items, she ended with “or something…” more than ten times. There isn’t much dialogue–Elle works alone–but the dialogue in the book is a little clunky, as are some of the sentences. “She would never have considered going where she was going in any other circumstances,” for example, could have been written more clearly. While much of the book is told in the third-person from Elle’s point of view, in explaining the crime and wrapping up the narrative, the author shifts to omniscient point of view which I found slightly jarring.

For a quick read that approaches mysteries in a different way, though, this book is entertaining. A perfect pool-side novel.

Doodled Cats by Gemma Correll

Thank you to Netgalley, Quarto Publishing Group, and Gemma Correll for providing an electronic copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

After having so much fun with my copy of Doodled Dogs, I wanted to check out Doodled Cats as well. This book is worth purchasing just for Gemma Correll’s drawings which are so funny and display so much personality. With just a few strokes, Correll can make cats happy, sad, snarky, or content.

The format and structure of Doodled Cats and Doodled Dogs is similar. Doodled Cats has four parts–Part I: All About Cats (the cat-toid spread is very wry but I learned some new information about cats, too), Part II: Doodled Cats Step by Step, Part III: It’s a Cat’s World, and Part IV: Cat Doodle Templates. The Bonus Project describes how to make a doodled cat coffee mug and is the same bonus project in Doodled Dogs.

My favorite section presents the step-by-step drawings. Correll has written instructions paired with drawings, and in each drawing what you are supposed to do is in red and what was done in a previous stage is in black. The instructions are easy to follow and definitely fun. Even though I am an atrocious artist, my doodled cats have a cuteness about them. (But boy, the Sphynx was hard for me!)

Sample doodles show cats in hats, cats in clothing, anthropomorphic cats, cats doing activities, and, of course, cats in boxes! Several pages have “plain” cat doodles so that you can decorate them with the accessories or patterns you choose.

In pages that make me laugh out loud, Correll collects classic cat-dog illustrations paired with perfectly hilarious captions. Perhaps my favorite has one of Correll’s famous pugs saying to a cat in earmuffs, “Will you be my girlfriend?” “Can’t hear you,” replies the cat.

I have purchased several how-to art books, and Correll’s are the only ones I’ve read where I’ve had lots of fun with the text and activities. Doodled Cats is perfect for so many people: Gemma Correll fans, cat lovers, and people who enjoy doodling/zentangle books.