Two intrepid librarians

Two intrepid librarians review the best nonfiction books for children

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

Monday, December 12, 2016

Giant Squid

Giant Squid 
by Candace Fleming and Eric Rohmann
Roaring Brook Press, 2016
Grades K-5

This descriptive, narrative nonfiction text will grip readers from the first page. The engaging text couple with magnificent close-up, oil illustrations capture the mystery and beauty of the elusive giant squid.

"With writhing arms
     and ghostly, lidless eyes
       they glide;
           some large as buses, 
              some weighing a ton. 
So big, yet rarely seen.
Instead, they are rarely glimpsed"

Near the end of the book fold-out pages illustrate the full body of giant squid. By the next page, the squid has vanished. A diagram provides readers with information about the squid's body and survival techniques. Don't miss the author's note and list of online sources in the back matter. Read aloud Giant Squid as an example of science writing; it's both poetic and informative.

Visit the author's website to download a science guide.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Ada's Ideas

Ada's Ideas: The Story of Ada Lovelace, the World's First Computer Programmer 
Fiona Robinson
Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2016
Grades 2-5

This week millions of children will take part in Hour of Code as part of Computer Science in Education Week. Teachers and librarians who are looking for books on the topic of computer science should pick up a copy of Ada's Ideas. This picture book biography traces the life of Ada Lovelace, the first computer programmer.

Lovelace, daughter of Lord Byron, grew up in the 19th century and had an excellent education and a proper upbringing thanks to her mother. Fiona Robinson shares the many influences in Lovelace's life including the creativity she in inherited from her father, the love of math that came from her mother, and her idea for loops and sequences in computer programming that Lovelace modeled after looms in factories she toured. Readers will appreciate the watercolor illustrations Robinson cut and mounted at different depths which make the illustrations appear 3D. Ada's Ideas could be read aloud to upper elementary students who are learning about loops and sequences in computer programming. Lovelace's work and life demonstrate to readers that computer science is a marriage between art and STEM.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Freedom Over Me

Freedom Over Me: Eleven Slaves, Their Lives and Dreams Brought to Life 
by Ashley Bryan
Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2016
Grades 4 and up

As 2016 comes to a close there are still many amazing nonfiction books in my review pile. Freedom Over Me is one of those titles that rises to the top this year. Beloved author and illustrator, Ashley Bryan, based the book on an historical document: The Fairchilds Appraisement of the Estate from July 5, 1828. The document, which can be viewed in the back of book, lists eleven slaves and their prices along with animals and cotton owned by the Fairchild Estate. Bryan took inspiration from the document and wrote poems and painted portraits of each person listed.

The first poem describes Mrs. Mary Fairchilds, a widow who is selling her family's estate which includes eleven slaves.  On the following page titled "For Sale,"  Bryan paints the eleven slaves owned by the Fairchilds and labels the picture with names and prices. Historical deeds and documents are effectively layered behind the pen, ink and watercolor illustrations. Each poem brings to life a slave from the appraisement list. In the following poems, Bryan imagines the work, dreams and relationships of each slave. Stephen is 32 year-old carpenter. Readers learn that he secretly learned to read and is in love with Jane. The next page describes Stephen's dreams of being free, marrying Jane and building houses. The poems continue in the same pattern with a two-page spread introducing the person followed by two pages describing his/her dreams.

Freedom Over Me is a powerful book that is a must purchase for school and public libraries. The poems beg to be read aloud in true Ashley Bryan style. Upper elementary, middle school and high school history teachers should read Freedom Over Me with their students. The poems and illustrations are sure to elicit important discussions about the history slavery in our country. Pair with Never Forgotten by Leo Dillon and Pat McKissack or I Lay My Stitches Down by Cynthia Grady.

Visit the publisher's page to view pages from the book.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Spotlight on Pamela S. Turner

Samurai Rising 
by Pamela S. Turner
illustrated by Gareth Hinds
Charlesbridge, 2016
Grades 6 and up

It's been a banner year for nonfiction author, Pamela S. Turner. Many nonfiction fans know Turner's Scientists in the Field books such as  The Frog Scientist and The Dolphins of Shark Bay. Earlier this year, Charlesbridge released Samurai Rising, Turner's epic biography of Minamoto Yoshitsune. Aimed at upper middle grade and teen readers, the biography details the exciting life of Yoshitune, a scrawny risk taker who became Japan's bravest Samurai in twelfth-century Japan. Rebellion, revenge, rivalries and fierce battles make this a thrilling page-turner for teen readers.

Be sure to check out the Samurai Rising activity guide for educators.

Crow Smarts: Inside the Brain of the World's Brightest Bird
by Pamela S. Turner
photographs by Andy Comins
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016
Grades 5 and up

Turner also has a new book in the Scientist in the Field series, Crow Smarts: Inside the Brain of the World's Brightest Bird. The book examines the work of Dr. Gavin Hunt and his team of scientists as they study the intelligence of crows in New Caledonia. The species of New Caledonian crows are exceptional because they craft and use their own tools and have the ability to solve problems and puzzles. Turner and Comins shadowed Dr. Hunt and his team and documents their work with crows on location. Close-up photographs, an engaging narrative and a spotlight on real scientists are part of the Scientist in the Field formula making it an interesting read for kids and adults who enjoy learning about science.

Here's a Crow Smarts activity guide for educators. Videos featuring the New Caledonia crows can be found on the Turner's website.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Radiant Child

Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat
by Javaka Steptoe
Little, Brown and Company, 2016
Grades 2-8

Javaka Steptoe pays tribute to the late artist, Jean-Michel Basquiat, in the picture book biography Radiant Child. Steptoe uses mixed-media collage on scrap wood found on the streets of New York for the illustrations inspired by Basquiat's art.

The story begins with a young Jean-Michel who lived with his parents in Brooklyn and dreamed of being an artist. Influenced by his mother's interest in poetry and art and his father's interest in music, Jean-Michel drew, painted and created in a non-traditional style that wasn't clean and neat. Readers will be interested in Jean-Michel's street art he spray painted at night under the name, "Samoo." The story ends on a positive note with Basquiat reaching his dream of becoming a famous artist.

The narrative text and intricate collages create a portrait of a complex and talented artist who influenced many artists who came after him. Take time to read the author's note and back matter containing more information about the life and untimely death of Basquiat. Steptoe explains how he uses motifs and symbolism from Basquiat's work including crowns, eyes, and vehicles.  Radiant Child will not only introduce young readers to an artist they may not know, but it will also inspire children to dream, create and make art. Look for Radiant Child during the awards season; it's sure to top many lists!

The reviewer received a copy of the book from the publisher.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Charles Darwin's Around-the-World Adventure- Blog Tour

Charles Darwin's Around-the-World Adventure 
by Jennifer Thermes
Abrams Books for Young Readers
On shelves Oct. 4, 2016
Grades K-6

Today I'm taking part in the Charles Darwin's Around-the-World-Adventure blog tour. I am also giving away a copy of the book to one lucky reader thanks to the generosity of Abrams Books for Young Readers. Complete the form at the bottom of this post to enter the giveaway.

Jennifer Thermes highlights Charles Darwin's five year expedition on the Beagle in Charles Darwin's Around-the-World Adventure. Upon opening the cover, it's evident that the book is full of kid appeal. Readers will first notice a timeline and a hand-drawn and painted map on the endpapers. After briefly describing Darwin as a child, the focus of the story shifts to his work on the ninety-foot ship, the Beagle. Darwin was hired as a naturalist on board the ship that sailed around South America. Lush watercolor illustrations feature plants and animals that Darwin encountered on the voyage. Readers will especially like the cross-section of the Beagle which shows the insides of cabins and storage areas.

Colorful, full-page maps are placed throughout the book to provide context to the story. Illustrations of animals and insects are included on each map. Thermes keeps the story focused on what Darwin learned on the expedition, but she also adds interesting details throughout the story.

"He saw a rare bird called a rhea that used its wings to steer as it ran, but could not fly. He discovered that some creatures were good for eating. Roasted armadillo made a tasty breakfast."

Thermes provides readers with more information about Darwin's work and The Origin of Species in the "Notes" section in the back of the book. Children will also be interested in the two-page spread of "Fun Facts" with accompanying illustrations. Did you know the Beagle had its own library with "almost four hundred books"?

After reading Charles Darwin's Around-the-World Adventure, young naturalists may be inspired to create their own nature journals. Readers may also find themselves more aware of the insects, plants and animals in their own backyards.

The reviewer received a copy of the book from the publisher.

Charles Darwin's Around-the-World Adventure Giveaway

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Tiny Stitches

Tiny Stitches: The Life of Medical Pioneer Vivien Thomas 
by Gwendolyn Hooks
illustrated by Colin Bootman
Lee & Low Books, 2016
Grades 3-8

Readers in search of an interesting biography should pick up a copy of Tiny Stitches. The informative picture book biography highlights the accomplishments of Vivien Thomas, an African American surgical technician and researcher who helped pioneer a procedure for performing open heart surgery on infants.

Gwendolyn Hooks takes readers through the major events of Thomas's life growing up in Tennessee during the Great Depression. Due to economic hardships after the stock market crash, Thomas was not able to afford to attend medical school. He took a job as a research assistant at Vanderbilt University with Dr. Alfred Blalock. The pair left Vanderbilt went to work at Johns Hopkins where they performed the first successful open heart surgeries on infants along with Dr Helen Taussig.

Bootman's realistic style watercolor illustrations bring a serious tone to the story. As Thomas and Dr. Taussig work to find a method for operating on babies, the author includes scientific details about the respiratory system that will satisfy curious readers. Middle grade readers will be surprised and saddened to learn that  Dr. Blalock and Dr. Taussig received credit for pioneering the surgical procedures on babies. Thomas was not publicly recognized for his work until twenty-six years after the first surgery.

Pair Tiny Stitches with Breakthrough!: How Three People Saved "Blue Babies" and Changed Medicine Forever by Jim Murphy.

The reviewer received a copy of the book from the publisher.