Book reviews: pair try to pierce mystery of Melania Trump, potential first lady
Like Donald Trump himself, journalist and politician from Slovenia, birthplace of would-be US president’s third wife, are big on promises but fail to deliver ‘the inside story’ on ex-model
by Clara Parkes
Stewart, Tabori & Chang (e-book)
If you think Luisa Gelenter was a genius, lust after Eisaku Noro products, or dream of making a lopapeysa, you will treasure this book by Clara Parkes, who travels the world, knitting needles in hand, on the lookout for exquisite handcrafted yarns. It’s a world not a few readers will find baffling, filled as it is with knitting conferences, television shows with names such as Knitting Daily TV, and events such as the Edinburgh Yarn Festival, whose transformation in one year alone, Parkes writes, underscored the fact “big things were happening for knitters all across the United Kingdom”. Parkes, who found success with The Yarn Whisperer, is a down-to-earth guide, guiding readers through carding machines and the like, and trying to evoke the subtle beauty created by some yarn magicians. A trip to Iceland (to teach workshops on yarn and wool) reveals that yarn is sold at supermarkets (which hurts the selective yarn shops) and that the lopapeysa sweater (with its distinctive yoke pattern) is a 20th-century design that caught on in the 1950s. Parkes believes knitters unwittingly wear a cloak of invisibility. Perhaps the growth of the craft and books such as Knitlandia will change that.
by Bojan Pozar and Igor Omerza
Zalozba Ombo (e-book)
We’ve all seen her on television, standing mute beside Donald Trump. However, while the world has learned much about Trump, little is known about his third wife, Melania. Slovenian journalist Bojan Pozar and politician Igor Omerza, who writes about Slovenia, thus promise “the inside story” on the would-be first lady of the United States. Sadly, like the Trump campaign – which is big on promises, small on policy – they fail. Several chapters in, readers will realise the book consists mainly of a who’s who in Melania’s family and a potted history of Slovenia. Despite her being “by far the richest Slovenian of all time”, the authors write, “not just Americans, but not even Slovenians know anything about her” – beyond that she is a former model who may or may not have lied about her degree in architecture. “Her attempts to silence Slovenian journalists with lawsuits” are probably to blame. To be fair, the duo correct some Daily Mail mistakes and it’s clear they tried to persuade people to talk about Melania. But as they themselves say, “Stories about [her] have been harder and harder to access, the further Donald Trump’s presidential campaign moves along.”
The Importance of Being Little
by Erika Christakis
Brilliance Audio (audiobook)
“Sluggish cognitive tempo disorder”, “sensory processing disorder” or just “problem child”. That’s what some preschoolers are labelled if caught daydreaming rather than performing some tedious task cooked up by adults who underestimate their cognitive capacities. Early-childhood educator Erika Christakis, through narrator Teri Schnaubelt, argues persuasively about children’s development: how it is not linear; how putting them in rooms cluttered with all sorts of learning “tools” can distract them; and how flexibility in what and how to teach is important. There’s no reason to teach the alphabet in single letters, or in order; no need, in fact, for top-down teaching. She also points out that the young children who need active, play-based learning the most are usually the ones least likely to have it in preschool, unlike their wealthier contemporaries. Poor children are perceived to be the ones who need “real” teaching. Parents and teachers may not agree with Christakis all the time, but they should enjoy hearing about some of the children she has met. She stresses the importance of not expecting young children to produce “trinkets” for adults’ amusement. Signs of learning, she says, are sometimes not visible in the classroom.