Two intrepid librarians

Two intrepid librarians review the best nonfiction books for children

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Fearless Females: the Fight for Freedom, Equality, and Sisterhood by Marta Breen

Fearless Females: the Fight for Freedom, Equality, and Sisterhood
by Marta Breen; Illustrated by Jenny Jordahl
Yellow Jacket. An imprint of Bonnier Publishing USA. 2019
Grades 5 and up

In the introduction to this collection of stories about courageous women, Norwegian writers, Breen and Jordahl  say, “Feminism is the opposite of misogyny. And what is misogyny? Well, it’s the notion that the opinions of women are less valid, that their work is less worthwhile, that they do no have the right to make decisions about their own lives and their own bodies, that they deserve less freedoms than men, and that they should obey men. This misogyny has long, historical roots and is still very widespread. And it means that millions of women are subjected to violence, sexual harassment, force marriage, and other forms of oppression every single day.” 

Told in graphic format, the book highlights not only the women who led the fight, but frames their work within historic moments. Topics include, “Women’s Struggle Against Slavery,” “Suffering Suffragists” to “the Struggle For Female Bodily Integrity.”

Illustrated in comic form, the combination of text and drawings is very powerful and inspiring. 

Though the book contains no back matter, I do recommend it for library collections. 

I love Breen and Jordahl’s positive outlook for the future of women and feminism. “There will always be those who seek to resist this and return things to the way they were. But these people rarely succeed in the long run. The world is slowly but surely making progress - with the help of feminists and their allies.” 

Let’s hope that’s true. 

As Hillary Clinton states, “In big ways and small, the unfinished business of the twenty-first century is the full equality of women.” 

Monday, September 16, 2019

Manhattan: Mapping the Story of an Island by Jennifer Thermes

Manhattan: Mapping the Story of an Island
Written and illustrated by Jennifer Thermes
Abrams Books for Young Readers. 2019
For all ages

Travel back in time to learn how the vibrant and cultural hub of our country, the island of Manhattan, came to be. Jennifer Thermes' artistic talent is on display here with her dramatic illustrations created using watercolor, colored pencil, and ink on Arches hot press paper. Each full page spread incorporates sidebars and detailed maps that all together creates a dramatic story. 

Millions of years ago when the glaciers melted, before anything had a name, the island lay sheltered in an estuary where freshwater river met saltwater sea, anchored on bedrock far below the surface of the earth.”

The first inhabitants of the island were the Lenape. They called it “Mannahatta, which means “island of many hills.” Once the colonists arrive, the Lenape were forced off the island forever.

Woven into the story of Manhattan are the many advancements that made the city unique. Elevated trains, the first subway (1904), bridges and tunnels that would connect the five boroughs (Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx, and Staten Island) “to become Greater New York.” Most importantly, readers will see how it is the people who arrived from all over the world to make Manhattan their home that has given the city its character.

Back matter includes an afterward, a timeline (I LOVE timelines), and selected sources.

I learned that located in Washington Square is an English elm tree known as the Hangman’s Elm that is said to be almost 350 years old. What stories that tree could tell.

A perfect book to share with anyone interested in New York City, but especially those visiting it for the first time. I would also pair it with New Yorker cartoonist, Roz Chast’s book, Going Into Town: A Love Letter to New York. (Bloomsbury. 2017) 

"From the Battery downtown up to Inwood, every inch of the island has a story to tell," and Thermes has done an excellent job telling that story using words and pictures.

A highly recommended purchase for all libraries.  

I borrowed a copy of this book from my local public library to write this review.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Prairie Boy: Frank Lloyd Wright Turns the Heartland Into a Home Written by Barb Rosenstock

Prairie Boy: Frank Lloyd Wright Turns the Heartland Into a Home
Written by Barb Rosenstock; Art by Christopher Silas Neal
Calkins Creek. Imprint of Highlights. 2019
Grades 5 up

Barb Rosenstock, one of my favorite writers, has crafted a picture book biography of American architect, Frank Lloyd Wright. 

Born in Wisconsin, June 8, 1867, Wright’s father was restless and moved the family around a lot. When they ended up in Massachusetts, the grey skies, grey buildings, and grey people made the young Wright miss the Heartland, the prairie. “To cheer him up, Frank’s mother bought him a gift - a smooth maple box. He slid off the cover and found three plain wood blocks: a sphere, a cube, and a cylinder. Under the blocks lay a set of dowel rods and three lengths of ordinary string.” He loved the blocks. 

Frank Lloyd Wright thought the architecture of the times, the Victorian style homes were boxy, confining, and gaudy. He wanted to design homes that incorporated the wide-open feel of the prairie. He would called them “Prairie Homes.” His homes stand in thirty-six states, in Canada and Japan. Wright designed the Guggenheim Museum in New York and the Hollyhock House in Los Angeles. 

Frank Lloyd Wright died in 1959.

Neal uses basic geometric shapes to convey how Wright saw his world. The full-page spreads are rendered in mixed media and digital color illustrations. 

Back matter includes an author’s note, selected sources, and source notes for quotes. Photos, both color and black & white, show seven of Wright’s most famous buildings, plus a reproduction of his plans for Fallingwater, Mill Run, Pennsylvania. 

A great introduction to Frank Lloyd Wright.

Click here to watch the book trailer.

The publisher sent me a copy of this book to write the review.

Monday, September 9, 2019

Full of Beans: Henry Ford Grows a Car Written by Peggy Thomas

Full of Beans: Henry Ford Grows a Car
Written by Peggy Thomas; Illustrated by Edwin Fotheringham
Calkins Creek. An imprint of Highlights. 2019
Grade 2 and up

In 1932, the United States was in the Great Depression. Farmers were losing their farms, crops were rotting in the fields with no one able to afford to buy them. To help the farmers, Henry Ford, the man who invented the car that changed how we travel, came up with the idea of experimenting with soybeans to see what exactly could be made from the oil of this ancient bean. One of his scientists, Robert Boyer, discovered many uses for the soybean. 
  • Soybean paint was used to paint Ford’s cars
  • Soybean resin made a hard plastic that was used for horn buttons, gearshift knobs, light switches, and distributor caps
  • Soy protein was spun into thread that Ford had made into a suit with a soybean-silk tie
Boyer also discovered that the soybean, dried and ground made flour. Mmmmm! Model T crackers were tasty, as was the soy ice cream served in the Ford Motor Company lunchroom.

But Henry wanted a car made entirely from soybeans. “Henry Ford saw this as the perfect symbol for how farms could fuel factories.”

“On August 13, 1941, everyone gathered for the Dearborn (Michigan) Day Festivities. Dressed in his soybean suit, Henry road to the fairgrounds in his sleek new automobile (made from soybean plastic) painted the color of a wax bean. Some folks joked that the car ran on salad dressing rather than gas.”

Some saw Henry’s invention as a revolutionary idea.

Unfortunately, four months later the United States entered World War 2, and Henry Ford’s dream of using soy-based products to build cars ended. 

This informational picture book biography, focuses on another side of Henry Ford: that of an innovative inventor. Fotheringham’s digitally created art is lively, colorful, and mirrors the text. 

Back matter includes author’s note, more information on soybeans, a recipe for Model T crackers, a timeline, source notes for quotations, books and articles, plus some fascinating information on how the Ford Motor Company still uses soybeans today in their cars.

A fun read.

I wrote this review using a copy of the book sent to be by the publisher.

Thursday, September 5, 2019

Buzzing with Questions: the inquisitive mind of Charles Henry Turner Janice N. Harrington

Buzzing with Questions: the inquisitive mind of Charles Henry Turner
Janice N. Harrington; Illustrated by Theodore Taylor III
Calkins Creek. An imprint of Highlights. 2019
Grades 3 and up

Have you heard of Charles Henry Turner? Neither had Janice N. Harrington. In this well-researched picture book biography, she does an excellent job introducing to readers the pathbreaking African American scientist, Charles Henry Turner (1867-1923).

Born in Cincinnati, Ohio, Charles Henry Turner’s mind buzzed with questions about plants, animals, and bugs. Though his home was full of books, there never seemed to be enough to answer all his questions. “Charles Henry Turner asked so many questions that his teachers urged him to “go and find out.” And Charles did.”

Charles continued to read and find out. He worked hard. Graduated from high school and even though most colleges did not accept African American students, Charles went to college.

A shy person, Charles never tired of learning. “He spent hours peering through microscopes, planning experiments, gathering specimens, keeping records, drawing charts, and reading scientific papers in French and German.”

He studied spiders, tiny crustaceans, and, my favorite, ants. When Charles Henry Turner received a Masters of Science degree from University of Cincinnati, the first African American to receive a graduate degree from that university. He becomes a biology teacher at Sumner High School in St. Louis, Missouri and taught until his retirement in 1922. 

In 1910, Charles Henry Turner is the first African American scientist admitted to the St. Louis Academy of Science.

The book’s overall design is appealing, with Taylor’s double-page colorful illustrations reflecting the narrative.

Back matter includes and author’s note, timeline, source notes, a listing of selected papers by Charles Henry Turner, and notes on sources for the quotes that are prominently displayed throughout the book. Harrington also included two archival photos of Charles Henry Turner in her author’s note. 

Charles Henry Turner believed that biology could help people see the connection among all living things. Biology helps us to see - “to look at the world more closely. To think less about ourselves and more about others." Harrington says, “In these times when so many animals, insects, and plants are endangered or disappearing, what could  be more vital a gift? Like Charles Henry Turner, look at the world. Ask questions. Search for new answers.

Click here for more information on Charles Henry Turner.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher to write this review.

Monday, September 2, 2019

New Nonfiction- September 2019

Buckle your seat belts because September is a busy month for publishers! Here are some of the nonfiction titles for children and teens that hit shelves this month.

Nya’s Long Walk: A Step at a Time
by Linda Sue Park and Brian Pinkney

Fever Year: The Killer Flu of 1918
by Don Brown

The Dozier School for Boys: Forensics, Survivors, and a Painful Past
by Elizabeth A. Murray, PhD

Child of the Dream: A Memoir of 1963
by Sharon Robinson

Ruby’s Hope
by Monica Kulling and Sarah Dvojack

What Miss Mitchell Saw
by Hayley Barrett and Diana Sudyka

Growing Up Gorilla
by Clare Hodgson Meeker

More Than a Game: Race, Gender, and Politics in Sports
by Matt Doeden

by Jonah Winter and Bryan Collier

The Other Side: Stories of Central American Teen Refugees Who Dream of Crossing the Border
by Juan Pablo Villalobos

Thanku: Poems of Gratitude
by Miranda Paul and Marlena Myles

Little Libraries, Big Heroes
by Miranda Paul and John Parra

The Animal Awards 
by Martin Jenkins and Tor Freeman

Monument Maker: Daniel Chester French and the Lincoln Memorial 
by Linda Booth Sweeney and Shawn Fields

Soldier for Equality: Jose de la Luz Saenz and the Great War
by Duncan Tonatiuh

Monstrous: The Lore, Gore, and Science Behind Your Favorite Monsters
Carlyn Beccai

Prairie Boy: Frank Lloyd Wright Turns the Heartland Into a Home
by Barb Rosenstock and Christopher Silas Neal

One Person, No Vote: How Not All Voters Are Treated Equally (Young Readers' Edition)
by Carol Anderson and Tonya Bolden

Caught!: Nabbing History's Most Wanted
by Georgia Bragg and Kevin O'Malley

Follow Chester!: A College Football Team Fights Racism and Makes History
by Gloria Respress-Churchwell and Laura Freeman

Born to Fly: The First Women's Air Race Across America
by Steve Sheinkin and Bijou Karman

Thursday, August 29, 2019

How To Love a Country Poems by Richard Blanco

How To Love a Country
Poems by Richard Blanco
Beacon Press. 2019
Grades 8 and up

From time to time, I like to recognize books that are often found in the adult collection in my public library. I love how accessible Blanco’s poems are to even those intimated by poetry (That’s me). The poem that really stood out for me was, Let’s Remake America Great. It had me thinking, but, so did every poem in this slim tome.

This new collection looks at incidents that highlight our nation’s hostility throughout history. He writes about the Pulse nightclub massacre, an unexpected encounter he had while visiting Cuba, lynching in Alabama, the Navajo Indian forced exile in 1868, a young Chinese woman in detention on Angel Island in 1938, the incarceration of a gifted writer, and a very moving poem about the joy for gay and lesbians to finally be allowed to marry.

The book jacket states, “seeking answers, Blanco digs deep into the very marrow of our nation through poems that interrogate our past and present, grieve our injustices, and note our flaws, but also remember to celebrate our ideals and cling to our hopes.”  

In these poems, Blanco asks readers to look beyond our differences and see those differences as our strength. Our diversity is what makes our country great. e pluribus unum (out of many, one)

Share these poems with students, friends, and family. They will definitely spark some honest conversations about America and how each one of us has the potential to change the world.

I borrowed a copy of this book from my local public library to write this review.

Monday, August 26, 2019

Save the Crash Test Dummies Written by Jennifer Swanson

Save the Crash Test Dummies 
Written by Jennifer Swanson; Illustrated by Temika Grooms
Peachtree. 2019
Grades 3-8
Coming out in October, 2019

The cars we drive today have a lot of safety features, such as bumpers, seat belts, and air bags. Just how did we come up with them? This entertaining informational book traces the failures (a cowcatcher that scooped up humans) and successes (seat belts) of the auto safety inventions that have been developed throughout history and how crash-test dummies made it all possible.

The writing is entertaining, a mixture of history and science. The narrative is peppered with black & white photographs, diagrams, and little side bars with more detailed information. 

I found it interesting that before 1949, scientists used cadavers to obtain crash data. “While it might seem a little gruesome, cadavers provided valuable information to car manufacturers.” As technology improved after World War II, scientists then invented the first crash-test dummy, anthropomorphic test devices (ATD). The new model had a more fully formed body that helped provide the data needed for new safety features. 

The book explores the newer technology like the rearview camera, perfect for when you are backing up and how scientists are working hard to perfect self-driving cars. All in the hopes of reducing or eliminating traffic accidents.

Back matter includes notes, photo credits, and index.

A fun read. Perfect for students interested in cars.

I used an Advanced Readers Copy of this book sent to me by the publisher to write this review.

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Imogen: the mother of three boys by Amy Novesky

Imogen: the mother of three boys
by Amy Novesky; Illustrated by Lisa Congdon
Cameron & Company. 2019
ISBN: 9781937359324
Ages 5 up

Imogen Cunningham (1883-1976) is considered one of the finest photographers of the twentieth century. Born in Portland, Oregon, Imogen was named after a princess in a Shakespeare play, Cymbeline, but she didn’t expect life to be smooth and easy and beautiful.

Novesky’s picture book biography offers readers a glimpse into the life of Cunningham, who at 18 decided she wanted to be a photographer. She went to college where she studied chemistry and botany. (Chemistry was useful to know when developing your own photos). She read poetry. She was the only one in her family to graduate from a university.”

Imogen opened a shop in Seattle, made a name for herself as a portrait photographer, then married an etcher. In her author’s note, Novesky explains that women at the turn of the twentieth century were not expected to have a career. Their primary role was to focus on children and the home. “Imogen focused on her children and her home.” Called, "the mother of modernism and three boys, she photographed her three sons, and every afternoon, while they napped, Imogen photographed her flowers.  

Embellishing this enchanting book are drawings of Cunningham's photos by Lisa Congdon.

The only back matter is an author’s note and one photo taken by Cunningham. A self-portrait that includes her three sons. 

To learn more about Imogen Cunningham, click here.

I borrowed this book from my local public library to write this review.

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Top 18 Nonfiction Book Bloggers

We are proud to share The Nonfiction Detectives blog has been named one of the top nonfiction blogs by Talk + Tell. See the entire list here.

Monday, August 12, 2019

The Magnificent Migration: on Safari with Africa’s last great herds by Sy Montgomery

The Magnificent Migration: on Safari with Africa’s last great herds
by Sy Montgomery; with photos by Roger and Logan Wood
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 2019

The mystery and wonder of migration, from the wildebeest to the monarch butterfly, is at the heart of Montgomery’s latest science book. Traveling in Africa with Dr. Richard Despard Estes, the world’s top expert on wildebeests, Montgomery witnesses the greatest land migration on Earth: the wildebeest crossing of the Serengeti. 

Balancing details of the wildebeests trek across the Serengeti, alternating chapters illuminate how human interference has negatively impacted other species that depend on migration for survival. (like the arctic tern, Christmas island red crabs, and monarch butterflies). 

Montgomery emphasizes the wonder and beauty of the Serengeti ecosystem with the inevitable warning that humans, a recent species to Earth, holds the fate of this beautiful landscape, as we do everywhere on Earth, in our hands. Her powerful narrative reminds readers of just how interconnected every living thing is to life on Earth. Destroying one ecosystem, in this case the Serengeti, can mean the death of a species which, in turn, will impact another and another. For the Monarch butterfly, genetically engineered crops made to withstand applications of an herbicide, Roundup, has allowed farmers to wipe out virtually every single milkweed plant on their land which, in turn, threatens  the existence of the Monarch.

The book is loaded with beautiful color photographs by father and son team, Roger and Logan Wood, that perfectly highlight what is being discussed in the text. 

Back matter includes an epilogue, selected bibliography, ways to get involved to save the Serengeti, and index.

After reading The Magnificent Migration, there is no question, hands down, that Sy Montgomery is able to take any topic and make it a page-turner. She is one of my favorite writers of nonfiction. 

I borrowed a copy of this book from my local library to write this review.

Thursday, August 8, 2019

New Nonfiction- August 2019

Check out these new titles that hit shelves in this month.

Heroism Begins With Her 
by Winifred Conkling and Julia Kuo

by Lori Alexander and Vivien Mildenberger

Summer Green to Autumn Gold: Uncovering Leaves' Hidden Colors
by Mia Posada

Rise!: From Caged Bird to Poet of the People, Maya Angelou
by Bethany Hegedus and Tonya Engel

At Home with the Beaver: The Story of a Keystone Species
by Dorothy Hinshaw Patent

Manhattan: Mapping the Story of an Island
by Jennifer Thermes

Maker Comics: Create a Costume
by Sara Myer

Bringing Down a President: The Watergate Scandal
by Andrea Balis, Elizabeth Levy and Tim Foley

Troublemaker for Justice: The Story of Barnard Rustin, 
the Man Behind the March on Washington
by Jacqueline Houtman, Walter Naegle, and Michael G. Long

Todos Iguales/ All Equal
by Christy Hale

The Very Short, Entirely True History of Unicorns
by Sarah Laskow

The Secret Life of the Skunk
by Laurence Pringle and Kate Garchinsky

Billie Jean!: How Tennis Star Billie Jean King Changed Women's Sports
by Mara Rockliff and Elizabeth Baddeley

Saving the Tasmanian Devil
by Dorothy Hinshaw Patent

NaNoWriMo Presents: Brave the Page: A Young Writer's Guide to Telling Epic Stories
by Rebecca Stern and Grant Faulkner
Introduction by Jason Reynolds