Two intrepid librarians

Two intrepid librarians review the best nonfiction books for children

Monday, March 27, 2017

The Search for Olinguito: Discovering a New Species by Sandra Markle

The Search for Olinguito: Discovering a New Species
by Sandra Markle
Millbrook Press. 2017
ISBN: 9781512410150
Grades 3 up
To review this book I borrowed a copy from my local public library
Note: Louise is writing all the reviews while Cathy is on sabbatical until February 2018.

It is hard to imagine, in this world of information overload, that there still could be an animal species undiscovered. Yet, that is exactly what happened in 2013 from the auditorium at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C. Kristofer Helgen, a scientist at the museum in charge of their collection of mammals, made the exciting announcement that they had found a new animal. The first new species discovered in thirty-five years.

Facts about this new species and just exactly how Helgen went about tracking it down is the subject of this riveting science book. Full of color photographs that are well-captioned, Markle’s book is perfect for budding scientists. 

Oh, what was the new species? An Olinguito (oh-ling-GEE-toe)

Purchase a copy for your library to find out more about this thrilling science adventure.

Back matter includes an author’s note, source notes, a glossary, ways to find out more information about cloud forests, index.

Sandra Markle has written numerous award winning books for children. 
Other books we've reviewed by her:

Reviewed by Louise!

Monday, March 13, 2017

Alice Paul and the Fight for Women’s Rights by Deborah Kops

Alice Paul and the Fight for Women’s Rights
by Deborah Kops
Calkins Creek. 2017
ISBN: 9781629793238
Grades 6-12
To write this review, I received an Advanced Uncorrected Proof from the publisher.

“Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on         account of sex.”

On July 19-20, 1848, the Seneca Falls Convention, led by Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Lucretia Mott was held in Seneca Falls, NY. At the convention, Stanton read from the “Declaration of Sentiments and Resolutions,” a statement of grievances and demands that called upon women to organize and to petition for their rights. The convention passed 12 resolutions, the ninth demanding the right for women to vote. This convention served to launch the women’s suffrage movement in the United States. Yet, despite the initial enthusiams, the woman suffrage movement languished into the doldrums until 1912, when a tiny woman with great energy, Alice Paul, became Chair of National American Woman Suffrage Association's congressional Committee (NAWSA).

Kop’s excellent book is the story of Alice Paul and her determination to keeping national attention on the woman suffrage movement. Born in Moorestown, New Jersey on January 11, 1885, Paul was the power behind the passing of the Nineteeth Amendment in 1919, which was ratified to the Constitution in March of 1920, allowing women the right to vote.

A force to be reckoned with, Paul would work until exhaustion and employed militant tactics that at times offended fellow suffragettes. When, in 1913, after orchestrating the first Senate debate on a woman suffragette amendment, “Paul asked a promising volunteer, “Can’t you stay on and help us with a hearing next week?”  The volunteered explained she planned to take a summer holiday with friends. “Holiday?” Paul repeated.” Ashamed, the young volunteer changed her mind and would remain working alongside Paul for many years. 

Paul was thoroughly committed to the equal rights for women, though she did shy away from including African American women. She willingly endured jail, hunger strikes, and being forced to eat by having “a doctor inserted a long tube through one of her nostrils into her stomach and poured milk and liquid food down the tube”, Paul never gave up. After the ratification of the Nineteethn Amendment - the Susan B. Anthony Amendment - Paul would go on to write the first draft of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) and would spend the rest of her life trying to see it ratified to the Constitution. (To this day, the ERA is still short of being ratified to the Constitution by three States)

Relying heavily on primary sources, this engaging narrative is not a biography of Alice Paul, because she kept her private life private. Kop’s states in the Author’s Note, “No one had much luck uncovering what lay behind Paul’s public face, though, and for a simple reason: she did not want most people to know. She would happily talk with journalists at great length about the Susan B. Anthony Amendment (Nineteethn Amendment) and the Equal Rights Amendment, but she resisted talking about herself. And very few documents she left behind reveal her feelings.”  Instead, this is a wonderful story of Alice Paul and the history of women's rights. 

Back matter includes author's note, brief bios of important women mentioned in text, source notes, bibliography, and index.

Alice Paul's admirable perseverance and indomitable spirit, who gave her whole life to the cause of a woman’s right for equality is a wonderful role model for all of us.

More about Deborah Cops, go here.

 Other books to include on a display: Around American to Win the Vote: two suffragists, a kitten, and 10,000 miles by Mara Rockliff; Illustrated by Hadley Hooper, Let Me Play: the story of Title IX: the law that changed the future of girls in America by Karen Blumenthal

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Martina & Chrissie by Phil Bildner

Martina & Chrissie: the Greatest Rivalry in the History of Sports
by Phil Bildner; Illustrated by Brett Helquist
Candlewick. 2017
ISBN: 9780763673086
Grades 2-5
To review this book, I received a copy from the publisher

“Hey, guys —
yeah, I’m talking to you.
You see those two names on the cover?
Martina and Chrissie?
That’s Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert.
You know who they are, right? No?
Wow, okay.”

And so begins this exciting informational picture book, a duel biography, of how two women of equal talent, tennis stars from the mid-1970’s till 1990, though they did play against each other refused to be rivals. Instead…they remained friends. 

Bildner’s casual tone conveys great excitement as he explains to readers how Chris Evert, from Fort Lauderdale, Florida and Martina Navratilova, from Revnice, Czechoslovakia “were the greatest rivals in the history of sports. ALL SPORTS.”  

Chrissie was all technique. She was poised, had precision and was in great shape. Martina, had a lefty serve, loved to rush the net and at first was very out of shape. Where Chrissie was calm, Martina was all emotion. They became friends and enjoyed competing against each other. "After awhile, Martina got tired of all that losing." She got a new coach and got in shape. She started winning. Martina's new coach didn't allow her players to be friends with their rivals. Coach wanted her players to "hate their opponents. Like enemies." 

Bildner plays off the rivalry between Chrissie and Martina with the conflict going on between the US and Russia at that time. The Cold War.

Helquist’s illustrations, rendered in acrylic and oil on paper, artfully filling every inch of the pages. Evert & Navratilova, fierce and determined while on the court, are seen smiling when hanging out as friends. 

Sure, if you go by the numbers, then yes, Martina had more wins. But, that’s not the story Bildner wants to tell. Nope. The story is this: these two tennis stars were great because they were friends and helped each other be the best they could be.  “Because they played together, they became the best, equal parts of the greatest rivalry in the history of sports.”

Back matter includes a timeline with more facts about Chrissie and Martina’s games. Sources include books, articles, some audiovisual materials, and websites.

Just in time for Women’s History Month, this is a great book to share with all students.

Posted by Louise

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Rivers of Sunlight: how the Sun moves water around the Earth by Molly Bang and Penny Chisholm

Rivers of Sunlight: how the Sun moves water around the Earth
by Molly Bang and Penny Chisholm
Blue Sky Press, Scholastic. 2017
ISBN: 9780545805414
All ages
This review copy was obtained from a publisher at ALAMidwinter in Atlanta, 2017.

The Sun's role in moving water - The Water Cycle - and why it is imperative to protect it is the subject of Rivers of Sunlight.

"What would happen if I did NOT move water? There would be no rain, no LIFE on your blue planet if I did not move water?"

This is the fifth title in the Sunlight Series by artist Molly Bang and MIT professor Penny Chisholm. What draws me in to this series is the art which mirror exactly what is being explained in the text. Bang's illustrations are so beautiful. Luscious. The paintings are a combination of blues, greens, and browns, resembling a folk art style.

The book asks readers: "Do you ever wonder? Where did your water come from? Where is it going? What keeps it moving?

Throughout, the Sun explains how the world is delicately balanced. Here we learn, with each turn of the page, how the ebb and flow of water replenishes our planet. 

Did you know that in the ocean, "Salty water is heavier than fresh water. Cold water is heavier than warm water. Cold water holds more oxygen than warm water. So the cold, salty, heavy oxygen-rich arctic waters PLUNGE and become a colossal waterfall inside the sea."   

As with every book in this series, Bang and Chisholm always brings back the message of conservation. Water can be everywhere, but if it is full of toxins and pathogens, who can use it? "As the saying goes, "We are all downstream."

Six pages of backmatter offers more details on the role water plays in maintaining life on Earth. I especially appreciate the idea that with each glass I drink, the water has been through sea and sky, lakes and streams, through plants and worms, insects and elephants - giving them life too.

In this time of great uncertainty:
"REMEMBER: You share Earth's water with everything alive, and your life depends on the whole web of life." Without water, H²0, that is free from pollution, there would be no life on Earth.

A perfect complement for any science class, from primary up to adults. The series emphasizes how everything in Earth is interconnected. 

Written by Louise

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Grand Canyon by Jason Chin

Grand Canyon

Written and Illustrated by Jason Chin
A Neal Porter Book/Roaring Brook Press. 2017
PreK and up 
To write this review, I used an ARC (Advanced Readers’ Copy) that I received at ALAMidwinter2017

Grand Canyon, 277 miles long and one mile deep, is home to a large diversity of plants and animals. Chin states, Grand Canyon is mind-boggling old, has a rich cultural history, a fascinating ecology, and its geologic significance is second to none.”  Even a life-time of study, the canyon is too big for any one person to know and see it all. In this dazzling informational picture book, Jason Chin offers readers a very detailed history of this natural wonder.

Starting at the Inner Gorge, at the bottom of the canyon, a father and daughter hike upward through the different elevations until they reach the top of the canyon.

Similar to his other beautifully illustrated books - a blend of factual text with fantasy-like images - here the large, detailed drawings depict a section along specific trails where Chin hiked on a visit. To help readers see what the narrative is explaining, Chin surrounds his text with exquisite drawings with borders that display rock layers to what inhabits each ecological community. In some spots, as the daughter makes her way up through the canyon layers, readers are taken to see what that exact spot might have looked like millions of years ago. For example, Grand Canyon Supergroup Trilobite fossils found on the Bright Angel Shale, which formed more than 200 million years ago, once lay beneath the sea. As the pair reach the top at the South Rim the pages open up to allow us to see a panoramic view of the South Rim. The view is breathtaking.

Ample backmatter gives more details on the history of Grand Canyon. Chin does acknowledge that parts of Grand Canyon National Park does lie within the borders of the Hualapai, Havasupai, and Navajo Indian Reservations and that the Canyon remains a place of cultural and spiritual importance to many the Hopi, Navajo, Zuni, Paiute, Apache, Hualapai, and Havasupai. 

Although the processes that carve canyons are understood, nobody knows exactly how Grand Canyon was carved. In fact, nobody even knows how old Grand Canyon is!  There is recent evidence that other rivers started carving the canyon before the modern Colorado River. Also a bibliography of books, websites, and papers and books for further reading.

Fascinating and beautifully executed. 

Thank you, Neal Porter, for so many wonderful artists.

For a glimpse at some of the illustrations, go here.


Sunday, February 5, 2017

Kids Get Coding by Heather Lyons and Elizabeth Tweedale

Kids Get Coding: Coding, Bugs, and Fixes
ISBN: 9781512413595

Kids Get Coding: Learn to Program
ISBN: 9781512413601
Kids Get Coding: A World of Programming
ISBN: 9781512413625
all written by Heather Lyons and Elizabeth Tweedale
Illustrated by Alex Westgate
All ages with an interest to learn about coding.
I checked out these books from my local public library.

Sometimes it is hard being a librarian, because there are so many amazing things us, but we don’t always have the time to learn about all of them. I have been interested in coding ever since the Systems Manager at the library where I work began offering opportunities where kids can learn coding using robots. The kids seemed to understand it all, but I was a bit overwhelmed at where to start. 

Enter these three books in the Kids Get Coding series published by Lerner. The authors, Heather Lyons and Elizabeth Tweedale, founders of blue[shift], a coding school in West London, England, have written a kid-friendly set of books with easy-to-follow directions on learning how to code. Each book combines simple, direct text with a visually appealing layout. To assist with hints and tips is Data Duck, the series computer mastermind. To help readers understand each step of the programming process there are activities that build on each step with an answer key in the back and links to the authors' website for more opportunities to practice. 

Kids Get Coding:Coding, Bugs, and Fixes covers algorithms, loops, bugs, and fixes. The graphics resemble Scratch programming, giving the book an important visual element for learning. One of Data Duck’s questions asks, What happens if you get the steps wrong when writing an algorithm?

Kids Get Coding: Learn to Program talks about the different programming languages (HTML. Python. Java. Scratch.) young coders can use to write computer programs. Data Duck explains, A computer programmer needs to write the program in the best language for the job it needs to do. For example, Python is better at organizing information and HTML is better at displaying it on a web page. In addition, one needs the right syntax to write code in loops (a program that repeats) and learn how to debug your program.

Kids Get Coding: a World of Programming helps readers discover what is digital content and how it is made, stored, and used. Inputs and Outputs, using special programs to store digital content, how to name files and save them, Bits and Bytes, file extensions,  to storing information.  

Kids Get Coding: Online Safety for Coders reminds kids of their digital footprint. It is important to know what happens to the information we post and leave behind. The authors briefly explain how search engines work and ways to protect your identity.

Though the series has some minor flaws, such as no pronunciation guide, and a few of the links within BlueShiftCoding take you to another page within the site, overall these are very helpful by offering a very basic understanding of coding. Use in conjunction with hands-on activities in a classroom or in helping a librarian prepare for teaching a Scratch coding class at the public library.

Louise "Hello, World!"

Monday, January 30, 2017

Rolling Blackouts Dispatches from Turkey, Syria, and Iraq Written and illustrated by Sarah Glidden

Rolling Blackouts  Dispatches from Turkey, Syria, and Iraq

Written and illustrated by Sarah Glidden
Drawn & Quarterly. 2016
ISBN: 9781770462557
The publisher gave me a copy of this book at ALA Midwinter 2017.
Grades 9 and up

In her second comic nonfiction, "a narratoon", cartoonist Sarah Glidden (How to Understand Israel in 60 Days or Less) gives readers a behind the scenes look at the job of creating stories for news outlets. Glidden tags along with two friends, Sarah Stuteville and Alex Stonehill, reporters from the Seattle Globalist, a nonprofit journalism collective, as they travel to Turkey, Syria, and Iraq to research potential stories on the effects of the Iraq War and its impact on the war’s refugees. The idea was that Glidden would watch and listen as Sarah Stuteville and Alex gathered stories. Woven into the narrative is how difficult it is to sell these stories to big media organizations who are reluctant to pay for expensive-to-produce foreign news, especially from free-lance journalists. 

Glidden states in her introduction:
I spent two months with the people portrayed in this book, observing and documenting them and capturing as much as I could with my little digital recorder. I recorded our conversations as we ate our meals, walked around cities, conducted interviews, and unwound at the end of the day with a beer or three. This means what when I returned home, I had hundreds of hours of recorded conversation to transcribe and sift through. It also means that almost all the dialogue in this book is taken directly from these recording, with some minimal cleanup done for grammar or clarity. 

Glidden further explains that conversations were edited and condensed to make this comic readable (and not a thousand pages long). Quite a feat, but the outcome is a smooth documentation of her travels in an area that now are off limits because of conflict.

Another element to this engrossing narrative is Dan O'Brien. A childhood friend of Sarah Stuteville, Dan, an X-Marine who served in the Iraq War travels with them and his reasons for returning to the Middle East makes for an compelling counterpoint to the storyline.

Glidden’s drawings are rendered in soft, muted watercolors. Her writing is honest with a touch of self-effacing humor. 

The story of the refugees, those individuals displaced by the war, is haunting. The stories of lost family members, jobs, a whole way of life that they will never get back is heartbreaking. Many have been stuck in refugee camps for five, ten years. Waiting for asylum. For some refugees they will live anywhere, while others hate the U.S. for invading their country.

The book does not shy away from some tough questions, especially how these countries changed, both good and bad, since the Iraq War. 

At the close of the book, before Glidden leaves to go back to Seattle, during an interview an Iraqi woman says, "I not like your government. She applied for asylum and "will go anywhere but the U.S". 
She says to Sarah Stuteville, "from an Iraqi to an American, she just wants to ask this one question. What is the benefit of your army coming to Iraq?" 

Sarah Stuteville answers, "There is none".

Rolling Blackouts is a eye-opening, emotionally charged tome that everyone should make time to read. 

To learn more about Sarah Glidden, visit her website
More reviews about Rolling Blackouts and Sarah Glidden: The GuardianPublic Radio International, and Rolling Stone.


Friday, January 27, 2017

NF sightings at the ALA Midwinter Conference

I’m back!  

On Monday, around midnight, I returned home from the ALA Midwinter Conference in Atlanta. I am always tired, yet energized after the conference. I spent a lot of time in committee meetings, attending publisher events, and walking through the Exhibit Hall checking out the 2017 nonfiction titles. It does seem that 2017 will be a great year for amazing nonfiction.

The conference ended, as always, on a high note. The winners of this year’s ALA Youth Media Awards were fantastic. Good job to all who worked so hard all year reading and evaluating the hundreds of titles. 

I loved the winners and honor books! Click here to see the list of winners.

Here are some new nonfiction titles I spotted at the conference that I look forward to reviewing.

Birds Make Nests by Michael Garland
Holiday House

Caroline's Comets: a true story by Emily Arnold McCully
Holiday House

Penguin Day: a family story by Nick Bishop

Noah Webster's Fighting Words 
by Tracy Nelson Bauer; Illustrated by Mircea Catusanu
Millbrook Press

Out of the Box: 25 incredible craft projects you can make from cardboard

Rivers of Sunlight: how the sun moves water around the earth 
by Molly Bang & Penny Chisholm
Blue Sky Press

Trudy's Big Swim: 
how Gertrude Ederle Swam the English Channel and took the world by storm
by Sue Macy: Illustrated by Matt Collins
Holiday House

Muhammad Ali: a champion is born 
by Gene Barretta; Illustrated by Frank Morrison
Katherine Tegen Books

Amazon Adventure: how tiny fish are saving the world's largest rainforest
by Sy Montgomery; Photographs by Keith Ellenbogen
Scientists in the Field
Houghton Mifflin

Stay tuned!

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Farewell and Welcome Back

 As my work begins on a book award committee, I am taking a leave of absence from the blog this year. You won't see any reviews or blog posts from me until February of 2018.

 Luckily we are a blogging duo. Louise has spent 2016 serving on a book award committee. She will return to blogging next month. Hooray!

Farewell for now,

Monday, January 16, 2017

Hopping Ahead of Climate Change

Hopping Ahead of Climate Change: Snowshoe Hares, Science and Survival
by Sneed B. Collard III
Bucking Horse Books, 2016
Grades 3-6

Librarians and teachers in a search of solid nonfiction science books should take notice of Sneed Collard's latest middle grade work, Hopping Ahead of Climate Change.

In this 64-page narrative, Collard focuses on the work of biology professor Scott Mills as he studies snowshoe hares in the Rocky Mountains.  A mystery has unfolded. As climate change has shortened the winter in the Rockies, a number of snowshoe hares are now "mismatched" or have white fur when the ground is bare and brown. This can be deadly to a hare trying to avoid predators in wild.

Readers will be interested in the photos and description of the study conducted by Mills and his team as they pinpoint how long the hares are mismatched as well as the reasons why. The book effectively uses graphs, diagrams, photos and maps to convey information to middle grade readers. Collard does an excellent job of providing background information about causes of climate change or global warming. Back matter includes a glossary, list of websites and related books. Read Hopping Ahead of Climate Change in science classes studying animal adaptations or the effects of global warming. Pair with The Polar Bear Scientists by Peter Lourie.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Some Writer

Some Writer: The Story of E.B. White
by Melissa Sweet
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers, 2016
Grades 3 and up

I have to confess that I put off writing this review for several months for one main reason. Some Writer! is a work of perfection, and I didn't think I could find the words to write a review worthy of the book. However, as 2016 has come to a close I wanted to be sure to give some love to Some Writer! before I take a leave of absence from the blog.

Melissa Sweet masterfully blends photos, mixed media collage and narrative to capture the life and essence of beloved children's writer, E.B. White.  Words were very important to White, and Sweet places the words of the writer throughout the book in the form of poems, quotes, and letters.

The book traces White's early life and summers in Maine and follows his path from a magazine "short writer" to a successful author of children's books. Readers will be surprised to learn about the controversy surrounding Stuart Little and the criticism from well-known librarians. Who knew a mouse born to human parents could be so controversial? Throughout the book, Sweet shares primary documents including pages of from the original manuscript of Charlotte's Web.

I've read Some Writer! from cover to cover twice and plan to read it again. There are so many things to notice on each page: a delicate watercolor illustration of a flower, a vice framing a diagram on boatbuilding, a map painted on a piece of wood with various 3D objects, a tiny handmade canoe, a silhouette of White on a page from The Elements of Style. Each page is a masterpiece. Don't miss the touching Afterword written by White's granddaughter, Martha White.

Some Writer! deserves a spot in the biography section of school and public libraries, and it would make a fitting gift for an aspiring writer or lover of books.

Monday, December 19, 2016

The Best Nonfiction Books of 2016

In past years Louise and I have worked together to create our list of favorite nonfiction books, but this year Louise could not help select the best books of of the year. She is serving on a book award committee and is unable to publicly review or write about books in 2016. I worked solo on this list and made my selections based on books I have read over the past year. Reviews are linked in the list below. There are some titles on the list that I have not yet reviewed on the blog. Look for reviews of several of these books in upcoming weeks.

I'm pleased to announce that Louise will return to blogging and reviewing for The Nonfiction Detectives in February. At that time I will pass the baton; Louise will run the blog solo in 2017 while I serve on a book award committee until 2018.

2016 Best Nonfiction Books for Children


by Gail Jarrow
Calkins Creek

by Maria Gianferrari and Bigram Ibatoulline
Roaring Brook Press

by Pamela S. Turner and Andy Comins
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

by Candace Fleming and Eric Rohmann
Roaring Brook Press

by Sy Montgomery and Keith Ellenbogen
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

by Nancy F. Castaldo
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

by Chris Barton and Don Tate

History & Biography

by Rich Wallace and Sandra Neil Wallace
Calkins Creek

March Book 3
by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell
Top Shelf Productions

A Poem for Peter
by Andrea Davis Pinkney, Lou Fancher and Steve Johnson
Viking Books for Young Readers

by Javaka Steptoe
Little, Brown and Company

by Pamela S. Turner and Gareth Hinds

by Shana Corey and Red Nose Studio 
Schwartz & Wade

Some Writer: The Story of E.B. White
by Melissa Sweet
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers

We Will Not Be Silent
by Russell Freedman
Clarion Books


by Ashley Bryan
Atheneum Books for Young Readers

by Roxanne Orgill and Francis Vallejo

by Carole Boston Weatherford and Jeffrey Boston Weatherford
Atheneum Books for Young Readers