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Book Review: by Lang Reid

Time for Kids Almanac 2013

There is more than one almanac for children on offer on the Bookazine shelves, but the helpful shop assistant at the Big C Extra store steered me to this one, the Time for Kids publication (ISBN 978-1-60320-921-2, Time for Kids Books, 2012) as her pick of the genre.
If the promise on the back cover is anything to go by, the credits for this book included that it was the winner of the Learning Magazine’s Teacher’s Choice award, winner of the Association of Educational Publishers award and the A-List pick by the Family Fun magazine. Impressive qualifications indeed.

It is up to the minute as far as today’s technology is concerned, a technology that your children have probably a better handle on than you, ‘smart phones’ being an obvious example.

The various sections in the almanac include What’s in the news, Animals, Body and Health, Calendars and holidays, Computers and communication, Countries, Dance and drama, Energy and the environment, Food and nutrition, Geography, Government and law, History, Inventions, Language and literature, Mathematics, Money, Movies, Music, Science, Space, Sports, Transportation, Weather and What’s next (and more that I skipped on).

In each section there are questions related to the subject, and at the back of the book are the answers, so the reader is not left wondering! As well as the answers, there are photo credits and an Index, so it is compiled correctly as an almanac should be.

I am quite sure that there will be details which have escaped your memory over the years, for example, did you know that a Coleopterist is someone who studies beetles (I didn’t).
One area where I believe this book falls down is there is no indication of the age group of the prospective readers, or at whom the publication was angled. This book will not be bought by children, but by parents and grandparents, and for those groups it is difficult to know what is suitable or otherwise. I know my own children were well in advance of myself comparatively at their stages in life. I think that the age group that will get the most out of this almanac would be 12-16 years old - I think!

The 240 pages have masses of detail, though there are some omissions. Queen Elizabeth II is mentioned for her amazing duration on the throne, but no mention of Thailand’s King Bhumibol, who is the longest serving monarch.

Another area which I thought could have been smartened up was some of the results of sporting competitions. To put 2011 results in a 2013 almanac, for example. Most competitions would be over by printing time, such as Wimbledon 2012. However, I suppose they had to make a cut-off somewhere.

It is not cheap at B. 523, but it is certainly crammed with facts and information to interest young adults. There is an unfortunate preponderance of Americana, but with this book having been compiled by the American Time magazine, this is understandable. Provided you can get the age group of the reader right, this is an excellent buy and would be an ideal Xmas present.

The Laundry Man

When I first spotted The Laundry Man on the Bookazine shelves, I thought at first it was a re-issue of Jake Needham’s book called The Laundry Man, but then I noticed that the author of this one was Ken Rijock, and whilst there are some similarities in the subject of the books, Rijock’s is an autobiography, whilst Needham’s is fiction.

The Laundry Man (ISBN978-0-241-95417-1, Penguin/Viking, 2012) is the tale of Ken Rijock, a once high-flying US lawyer, who found himself as a much needed assistant to the drug traders in Miami as he had some foolproof methods of laundering their ‘dirty’ drug money.

Rijock shows himself to be an archetypal risk-taker, with a live-in lover a female police officer, staying in his house full of drugs. Mind you, his police-lady paramour was no shrinking violet when it came to using the white powder herself either, though he gives the impression that everyone was on a cocaine trip in Miami at that time.

He very quickly makes a name for himself as a trustworthy professional, traveling to the Caribbean each weekend as an erstwhile tourist with a suitcase full of dirty money, which was then used to buy boats and off the shelf businesses.

Finding a suitably ethics-free banker and lawyer made his weekend’s work even easier, as he moved the cash around, selling the boats, transferring large lumps of cash, whilst going into St. Kitts and not even getting a passport stamp.

He attempts to legitimize his actions by saying that his clients had a problem (cleaning dirty money) and he, Ken Rijock was a problem solver.

He tries hard to get the reader on side, drawing attention to the fact that he volunteered for Vietnam, but even that was done to minimize his chances of being exposed to extreme frontline fighting. Ken Rijock had always played the odds to his favor.

Eventually his launderette collapses around his ears as he gets fingered by those further down the chain of command, and this is where he really pulls in all the favors and instead of getting a 15 year sentence, comes out with a four year one, which then gets cut down to two as he spills the beans on the whole laundry system and those who used it.

It was an interesting book, showing the devious nature of the man, and his profession in the US, where plea-bargaining and behind the scenes machinations make a mockery of the “justice” system. Rijock tries hard to get the reader on side, just as he had tried to get the judge and parole officers on side as well. He does not really succeed, in my opinion, coming across as an opportunist who was in it for everything he could get. At least he appears as an ‘honest’ criminal writer, so he cannot be all bad. However, he does not seem such a likeable ‘baddie’ as opposed to Howard Marks’, AKA Mr. Nice.

At B. 655, this is not a bargain, with so many books now well under B. 600. However the font is large, a boon for all those over 40!

HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]

Time for Kids Almanac 2013

The Laundry Man