Two intrepid librarians

Two intrepid librarians review the best nonfiction books for children

Friday, October 24, 2014

Neighborhood Sharks

Neighborhood Sharks: Hunting with the Great Whites of California's Farallon Islands 
by Katherine Roy
David Macaulay Studio (Roaring Brook Press), 2014
Grades 2-5

The reviewer borrowed a copy of the book from her school library. 

The shark section gets a lot of traffic in my elementary school library. Many young readers are fascinated by the creatures, so I was excited when I heard about Neighborhood Sharks at a Macmillan preview over the summer. Neighborhood Sharks is not your typical, informational book about sharks. The book focuses on great white sharks that live near the Farallon Islands near San Francisco and includes bold illustrations instead of photographs. The text alternates between narrative and expository writing. After introducing readers to a shark stalking its prey, Roy describes the special features that aid sharks in their search for food: teeth, jaws, sense of smell and more. One page explains how the design of a shark's body is ideal for swiftly swimming though the water. The concept is reinforced in a diagram that compares the body of a shark to the design of a jet plane.

Roy's writing style is engaging and the book packed full of important information about great whites. The complex vocabulary, science concepts and illustrations of seals being eaten make this a book for older elementary school readers (grades two and up). Back matter includes an author's note, list of sources, recommended books and sites, and a map.

Visit Katherine Roy's blog for more information about Neighborhood Sharks.

Monday, October 20, 2014


ISBN: 9781847803016
ISBN: 9781847802996
ISBN: 9781847805171
Written and photographed by Suzi Eszterhas
Frances Lincoln Children's Books. 2014
Preschool to Grade 2
I received these titles from the publisher.

After a long night of hunting in the forests of India, a mother tigress carefully returns to her den. She crawls into this secret place where she has hidden treasure - her tiny babies. The babies are called cubs and she is the only one in the whole world who knows they are there.  From Tigers

I was excited to see this new series about wild animals and how they grow in their natural habitat for a younger audience. Each book, in the Eyes on the Wild series, begins with the moment the animals is born and follows it until they are grown, ready to be on their own. The book concludes with a one page list of animal facts where it includes a few brief sentences explaining why the animal is endangered and a website for more information. There is no bibliography.

Eszterhas, a well-known wildlife photographer for National Geographic Kids, Ranger Rick, and Your Big Back Yard, fills the books with beautiful color photos. Each picture, some filling the page, perfectly mirrors what she describes in the text.

These books will be useful for the yearly unit on wild animals for primary grade students in my community.

For a list of other titles in the series, visit the author's website.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Buried Sunlight by Molly Bang & Penny Chisholm

Buried Sunlight: how fossil fuels have changed our world
Written by Molly Bang & Penny Chisholm; Illustrated by Molly Bang
Blue Sky Press. 2014
ISBN: 9780545577854
Grades 3-12
To review this book, I borrowed it from my local public library.

Author-illustrator Molly Bang has now written four books about the sun’s life-sustaining role in our world. She began with My Light that explained the sun’s role in creating electricity. Partnering with MIT professor Penny Chisholm, the two wrote Living Sunlight: how plants bring the Earth to life and Ocean Sunlight: how tiny plants feed the seas. Living Sunlight is about how the sun gives us life through photosynthesis, the most important process on Earth and how that process connects all of life. Ocean Sunlight explains how phytoplankton, tiny sunlight-fueled plants feed all life in the seas. 

In Buried Sunlight: how fossil fuels have changed our world, Bang & Chisholm continue the series to explain how fossil fuels came to exist and how civilizations dependence on them has seriously altered our world. 

When we humans started using fossil fuels, we did not understand that our actions could influence the entire planet. Now we know that they can have a profound impact on our Earth and its biosphere. We must consider carefully the impact our choices have on our current world as well as on future generations.

Bang & Chisholm do an excellent job simplifying the process of photosynthesis and its role in the cycle of life on Earth. When a world is in balance the exchange of CO2 and O is in balance. Yet our increased dependency on fossil fuels – coal, oil, and gas,  has created a world out of balance; what scientists call Global Warming.  
Some people still ask, “So What?” Earth has changed a LOT over the billions of years since it was born! It’s been MUCH warmer, and MUCH colder, than it is today! Why NOT burn fossil fuels?  The changes that are happening now are progressing too rapidly; many living creatures are unable to adjust to them. Bang calls for action when she asks, "What will happen to humans when there are no plants and water is scarce?"

Bang's illustrations are colorful and fill every inch of the page. They mirror precisely what is being explained in the text. The best part of the book is the author notes. Six pages further explain what is being discussed in the book. 

To help children gain knowledge of basic scientific principals, all four titles in this series are highly recommended. To see some of the illustrations, go here.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Super Sniffers by Dorothy Hinshaw Patent

Super Sniffers: Dog Detectives on the Job
By Dorothy Hinshaw Patent
Bloomsbury. 2014
ISBN: 9780802736185
Grades 3-6
To review this book, I borrowed a copy from my local public library.

I couldn't resist reviewing another book about dogs who use their incredible sense of smell to help get the job done.

Take any dog, any dog, for a walk along a sidewalk or in a park, and you won’t be walking much—you’ll be standing there holding a leash while the dog sniffs at every bush and every lamppost.

That’s good, because with their keen sense of smell –a bloodhound has over three hundred million sensitive cells that can detect odors–dogs have been recruited to help in a variety of service areas. In Super Sniffers: Dog Detectives on the Job, veteran science writer Dorothy Hinshaw Patent combines how dogs are trained with some real-life examples. There are search-and-rescue dogs, law enforcement canines and dogs who are helping save our planet by sniffing out invasive weeds, locating the scat of endangered species, and detecting contaminated water.

Entries are one to two pages. Sidebars highlight a specific dog and their job. Lots of color photos enhance the text. Back matter includes further reading, and index.

Patent is a master at engaging her readers as she combines scientific information with examples of dogs at work. Pair Super Sniffers with another book by Patent, Dogs on Duty: soldiers best friends on the battlefield and beyond and Sniffer Dogs: how dogs (and their noses) save the world by Nancy F. Castaldo

Friday, October 10, 2014

Who Was Here? Discovering Wild Animal Tracks

Who Was Here?: Discovering Wild Animal Tracks 
by Mia Posada
Millbrook Press, 2014
Grades K-3

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

Young readers will enjoy learning about animals tracks in this engaging science picture books. The writing style alternates between descriptive poems and expository paragraphs as readers try to guess the animals based on the tracks and the clues in the text.

"A saw-toothed swimmer left this trail, 
dragging its flat, paddle-shaped tail.
Its family works as a busy team, 
piling sticks to build a dam in the stream."

Upon turning the page, readers see an illustration of the animal in its habitat along with information about the animal.

"Beavers have five toes. Their hind feet are webbed to help them swim."

The soft, earth tones  and textures in the water color and mixed media collage illustrations make this a book readers will want to revisit, and the tracks are illustrated in actual size. The book contains tracks from animals that live in different habitats including black bears, kangaroos, and hippos. Back matter includes tips for looking for animal tracks and a list of related books and websites.

Pair Who Was Here? with Butterfly Eyes and Other Secrets of the Meadow by Joyce Sidman or What in the Wild? by David M. Schwartz.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Beetle Busters by Loree Griffin Burns

Beetle Busters: a rogue insect and the people who track it

By Loree Griffin Burns; 
photographs by Ellen Harasimowicz
Scientists in the Field
Houghton Mifflin. 2014
ISBN: 9780547792675
Grades 5-12
I reviewed a copy of this book sent by the publisher.

If cutting trees in one community today would save the trees in your backyard tomorrow, would it be worth it?
Would you feel the same way if you lived in that community and the trees being cut down were the only ones in your entire neighborhood?

The Asian longhornd beetle is from China and spends most if its life inside trees.  One beetle cannot kill a tree, but one beetle will lay more than twenty-five eggs in its lifetime. And since beetles lay their eggs on the same tree, it is only a matter of time before the tree is weakened to the point of collapse. The first Asian longhorned bettle made its way to the US in 1996. The larva was lurking in the wood of shipping pallets, spools, and crates that came from China. The first Asian longhorn beetle was discovered in maple trees in Brooklyn, New York. Clint McFarland, federal project manager for the Asian Longhorned Beetle Cooperative Eradication Program in Massachusetts believes that the only way to kill Asian longhorned beetles is to cut down the infected tree and chip it to pieces.

In her author’s note, Burns explains that the idea to write this book came after Asian longhorned beetles were found in her small town in Massachusetts. She wanted to believe in what McFarland and other scientists thought was the best way to destroy the beetles, but she also wanted to save her beloved trees. Like she did in Citizen Scientists, Burns challenges readers to roll up their sleeves and become a beetle buster. If we all work together, maybe we can eradicate this invasive pest that threatens to destroy our entire northeastern hardwood forests.  

The color photographs, maps, sidebars and absorbing text work together to make this new title in the Scientists in the Field series a must read. Back matter includes glossary, bibliography, and index.

Monday, October 6, 2014

The Next Wave by Elizabeth Rusch

The Next Wave: 
the quest to harness the power of the oceans

Scientists in the Field
Elizabeth Rusch
Houghton Mifflin. 2014
ISBN: 9780544099999
Grades 5-12
The publisher sent me this book for reviewing.

When I first moved to Maine I lived on an island where I experienced first hand the strength and power of the ocean. From being trapped on the island when the weather was too rough for the ferry to travel from the mainland to standing on the beach watching the pounding surf, I found that the ocean is always in motion from the wind and the pull of the tides. How to harness that energy to create electricity is the subject of Elizabeth Rusch’s new book, The Next Wave: the quest to harness the power of the oceans.

A great deal of energy generated around the world is lost from resistance in wires when transported long distances. One of the benefits of ocean energy is that the electricity can be generated –and used—near where people live.

Humans use a lot of electricity to power our homes and hobbies. Since most of the world’s population lives near an ocean, it makes sense to come up with a way to trap this type of renewable energy, thus allowing humanity to decrease our dependency on fossil fuels. Harnessing the oceans energy is not an easy task.

Rusch takes us to the Pacific Northwest where we meet Professor Annette von Jouanne, her students, and her private company partners together work diligently to create a wave-energy device that floats on top of the water. Will it be able to withstand the punishing waves of the ocean in order to turn those waves into electricity? Just maybe, with the work of Ocean Power Technologies, utilizing this technology may happen sooner than we think.

Cathy and I are fans of the Scientists in the Field series. The partnership between writer and photographer, as they work together to make the science accessible, relevant and interesting is one of the cornerstones of this award winning series. The books are well researched and the addition of sidebars offers in-depth explanations on key points from the text. Back matter includes a glossary, source notes, bibliography, often an author’s note, and an index. I especially enjoy how each title highlights a scientist whose life work is immersed in the unpredictable and dynamic natural world.

When introducing The Next Wave by Elizabeth Rusch to students, I suggest you first share the wordless picture book, Wave by Suzy Lee. The illustrations will highlight why you should never turn your back on the ocean.

Friday, October 3, 2014

CYBILS Nominations

The Children's and Young Adult Bloggers' Literary Awards (CYBILS) nominations are now open. Readers may nominate their favorite children's books and book apps for the 2014 CYBILS. To be eligible, books must be published between Oct. 16, 2013 and Oct. 15, 2014. Click for more information on how to nominate books.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Tomboy: a graphic memoir by Liz Prince

Tomboy: a graphic memoir
by Liz Prince
Zest Books. 2014
ISBN: 9781936976553
Grades 8 thru 12
The publisher sent me a copy of this book.

What defines who you are? Is it how you dress or is it who you are inside?

Artist Liz Prince explores these questions in graphic memoir, Tomboy. Prince shares her personal experience growing up being a girl who preferred things traditionally meant for boys. Instead of playing with dolls, having tea parties and loving the color pink, Liz loved pants, drawing dinosaurs and the genie from the movie Aladdin, and playing catch. She grew up totally happy as long as she wasn’t expected to dress and act girly.

I didn’t know what a tomboy was until I started school and was expected to follow the ‘rules of gender.

Prince’s frankness throughout is powerful. Her cartoonish illustrations convey her frustrations toward gender norms and builds to a crescendo when at age 16 she reads a Zine by Ariel Schrag that changed her thinking:

I subscribed to the idea that there was only one form of femininity and that it was inferior to being a man. I don’t want to be a girl on society’s terms. I wanted to be a girl on my own terms!

Tomboy: a graphic memoir is an excellent addition to your teen collection. Prince's self-confidence permeates the text and champions readers to be strong and remain true to themselves, even if it means being bullied...or not getting the guy. 

Friday, September 26, 2014

Little Melba and Her Big Trombone

Little Melba and Her Big Trombone 
by Katheryn Russell-Brown
illustrated by Frank Morrison
Lee & Low Books, 2014
ISBN: 9781600608988
Grades K-5

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

"Spread the word! Little Melba Doretta Liston was something special." 

The first line of this picture book biography announces to readers that they are about to meet an amazing individual. Melba Liston was greatly influenced by jazz music she heard as a child growing up in Kansas City in the 1920s. When her mother bought her a trombone, Melba was hooked. She taught herself to play the trombone relying on her "keen ears" later joining the Melodic Dots, a music club at her high school in Los Angeles in the 1940s.

Katheryn Russell-Brown's engaging narrative style incorporates the sounds of jazz music. Readers will enjoy following Liston's rise from a young girl who loved listening to music to a renowned jazz musician composing, arranging and performing across the country. The author writes about the racism and sexism Liston faced in way that young readers will understand.

"Still, Melba was lonely. She was the only woman in the band. Some of the men were cruel. Others acted as if she wasn't there. Melba let the music in her head keep her company."

Morrison's curved, earth-toned illustrations capture the feeling of the music as well as Liston's strength and determination. The final two-page spread of the story is beautiful. Liston performs on stage, alone, playing her trombone to a sold out audience.

Little Melba and her Big Trombone would make an excellent read aloud for a range of ages. Be sure to play Liston's music for readers. An afterword provides readers with more details about Liston's life and music. Additional back matter includes a discography and list of sources. Pair Little Melba and Her Big Trombone with Jazz Age Josephine by Jonah Winter, When Marian Sang by Pam Munoz Ryan, and Duke Ellington by Andrea Davis Pinkney.

Visit the Lee & Low blog to see a playlist of jazz tunes recommended by Frank Morrison.

Watch Melba Liston perform with the Quincy Jones Band in 1960.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Because They Marched by Russell Freedman

Because They Marched: the people's campaign for voting rights that changed America

by Russell Freedman
Holiday House. 2014
ISBN: 9780824329219
Grades 9 thru 12
To write this review, I borrowed a copy of this book from my local public library.

While campaigning in 2007 for the presidency, Barack Obama spoke at a ceremony commemorating the forty-second anniversary of the march from Selma to Montgomery.  Obama told his audience, It is because they marched that I stand here before you today.

In, Because they Marched: the people’s campaign for voting rights that changed America, nonfiction writer extraordinaire, Russell Freedman documents events that led up to that historic march to Montgomery, Alabama and how the U.S. Congress, including Southern lawmakers, would then approve the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Senator Harry Byrd of Virginia said, We can’t deny the Negroes a basic constitutional right to vote.

Though the protesters practiced nonviolence, local and state law officials met them with acts of violence. Impeccably researched and packed with historic black & white photographs, Because they Marched helps us remember the courage of the Civil Rights activists who risked their lives to ensure all U.S. citizens, especially minorities or the poor, have the right to vote.

The right to vote continues to be challenged and the meaning of American democracy remains a topic of debate and struggle. It will be in the news as we near another presidential election in 2016, because key provisions of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, was not upheld by the Supreme Court in 2013. The controversial 5-4 decision in Shelby County v. Holder released nine states, mostly in the South, from the requirement that they must seek advance federal approval before making any change in their election laws. Now states can make it harder for minority voters, older people, students, legal immigrants, and the poor of all races to register and vote.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Nonfiction News

Have you seen the new nonfiction blog in town? The Nonfiction Minute is a project from the creators of Interesting Nonfiction for Kids. The blog features high interest articles and essays written by various nonfiction authors. There's also a page that provides educators with ideas for how to use the articles with students. Be sure to read Pamela S. Turner's post Why Crows Peck Eyeballs.

Betsy Bird recently tackled the issue of invented dialogue in children's biographies. Here's the post if you missed it.  Be sure to scroll down and read the comments below the post.

Tanya Lee Stone wrote a guest post for School Library Journal's Consider the Source column where she explores the issue of what happens when authors blur the lines between fiction and nonfiction. These are issues Louise and I often discuss when evaluating nonfiction for children. Where did the author find the information? Are source notes provided for dialogue? How do we, as readers, know if it is true? Lots of food for thought about children's books, how we define nonfiction and how authors research and present information in nonfiction books.

The 2014 Longlists for National Book Awards were announced this week, and two of the books in the young people's literature category are nonfiction.  The Port Chicago 50 and Brown Girl Dreaming both made the longlist this year.

Alyson Beecher at Kid Lit Frenzy has written a series of blog posts to help classroom teachers build nonfiction collections. This has been an invaluable series for both educators and librarians who are looking to beef up their nonfiction sections. Here are Alyson's suggestions for books about marine life. 

Judges for the Children's and Young Adult Bloggers' Literary Awards (CYBILS) were announced this week, and The Nonfiction Detectives will be well represented. Louise was selected to serve as a second round judge in the Young Adult Nonfiction category, and I am the chair of the Book Apps category. Nominations open Oct. 1st. 

Monday, September 15, 2014

Sniffer Dogs by Nancy F. Castaldo

Sniffer Dogs: how dogs (and their noses) save the world
By Nancy F. Castaldo

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 2014
ISBN: 9780544088931
Grades 3 thru 12
To write this review, I borrowed this book from my local public library.

In Sniffer Dogs, readers learn how canines use their incredible sense of smell to help find us, keep us safe, and rescue us from danger. They even help protect the planet. The different occupations include finding survivors that are trapped after a disaster, sniffing out human bones, finding explosives, narcotics, and other bad stuff at airports, subways or other major transportation areas. There are also eco dogs that assist conservationists, and medical alert dogs that are trained to recognize blood sugar levels to sniffing out dangerous allergens.

About 90 percent of sniffers are often termed useless or unmanageable by their original owners. They are literally rescued from death row.

This is a high-interest title. Castaldo delivers a fascinating text that juggles the science of sniffing with specific stories of working dogs. She also mentions the valuable work these dogs do in times of war as bomb sniffers or companions who can find their way back to camp to get help. The addition of color photos taken by the author, show these hard working dogs in various, often dangerous situations. A real page-turner.

Back matter includes bibliography, suggested reading, websites, ways to get involved, glossary, and index.

If you have students who loved these fictional titles -- Duke by Kirby Larson, Saving Zasha by Randi Barrow, Letters from Wolfie by Patti Sherlock, Dogs of War by Shelia Keenan, Cracker! the best dog in Vietnam by Cynthia Kadohata and Soldier Dog by Sam Angus -- be sure to hand them Sniffer Dogs.

Read another review at Kid Lit Frenzy.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Be a Changemaker Blog Tour

Be a Changemaker: How to Start Something That Matters 
by Laurie Ann Thompson
Simon Pulse/Beyond Words, 2014
ISBN: 1582704651
Grades 7-12

The reviewers received copies of the book from Blue Slip Media.

Teens interested in making a difference in their communities (or even across the globe) will find Be a Changemaker inspiring and practical. Thompson has created an in-depth, step-by-step guide of how to identify a problem, develop a plan, form a team, and work towards a goal. Thompson shows kids how they can use technology and social media as tools to help meet their goals including Kickstarter, Prezi, and Google Drive. Stories of actual community projects and charities started by kids and teenagers are included in each chapter providing readers real life examples and ideas. 

Cathy's Thoughts:
I enjoyed the inspirational quotes at the beginning of each chapter. I think teens who are interested in creating an organization or project to help others will find this book really helpful. Thompson breaks it down into smaller, manageable steps while helping teens stay focused on their goals. My favorite parts of the book were the stories about kids who have helped others. I was impressed by the work of Jessica Markowitz and her organization, Richard's Rwanda. The group began by organizing bake sales and fund raisers to support the education of girls in Rwanda.

Louise's Thoughts:
I found this "how-to handbook" very useful. Thompson uses simple, direct language to explain how to take something you are passionate about and turn it into a reality. Readers will learn how to take that first spark of an idea and create a business plan to launching your idea to the world. I liked how in each chapter Thompson profiles some youth-led social organizations. For example, Project ORANGS is a new venture of two girls from Ann Arbor, Michigan. Their idea was to convince the Girl Scouts of America to switch to deforestation-free and socially responsible sources of palm oil, a main ingredient in their cookies. I wish we could have seen some photos of the the teens and their projects.

Teen Librarian's Toolbox will have a free downloadable workshop guide for libraries and classrooms in late October. Visit Laurie Ann Thompson's website for more details.

Be sure to visit the other stops on the blog tour!

Be a Changemaker Blog Tour Dates
Sept. 8     Sally's Bookshelf
Sept. 9     Girl Scout Leader 101
Sept. 10   Unleashing Readers
Sept. 12   Kirby's Lane
Sept. 15   NC Teacher Stuff
Sept. 16   The Hiding Spot
Sept. 17   Kid Lit Frenzy

Monday, September 8, 2014

Perfect Pairs: Using Fiction and Nonfiction Picture Books to Teach Life Science, K-2

Perfect Pairs: Using Fiction and Nonfiction Picture Books to Teach Life Science, K-2
by Melissa Stewart and Nancy Chesley
Stenhouse Publishers, 2014
ISBN: 9781571109583
Professional Resource

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

Educator, Nancy Chesley, and nonfiction author, Melissa Stewart, have teamed up to create Perfect Pairs, a professional resource for K-2 teachers. The book includes 22 life science lesson plans organized by grade and concept. Each lesson is inquiry-based and begins with an "I wonder" statement for students to think about and respond to in their science journals.

I wonder how a rain forest is different from a desert.
I wonder how animals protect themselves from predators.

The lessons are structured around a three-step "Investigative Process."
1) Engaging students
2) Exploring with students
3) Encouraging students to draw conclusions.

Fiction and nonfiction picture books are paired in each lesson to help young students grasp specific science concepts.  For example, the lesson about how animals protect themselves pairs Swimmy by Leo Lionni with What Do When Something Wants to Eat You? by Steve Jenkins. The picture books selected by Stewart and Chesley could also serve as mentor texts for young writers.

Perfect Pairs provides teachers with meaningful ways to use literature and inquiry to engage students in life science concepts. This is a resource that primary teachers should have on their shelves.  The "Bibliography of Picture Books" located in the back of the book will be helpful to librarians and teachers looking to beef up their science collections. Librarians, order Perfect Pairs for your library's professional resource collection. The teachers in your school or community will thank you!

Friday, September 5, 2014

Little Author in the Big Woods by Yona Zeldis McDonough

Little Author in the Big Woods: a biography of Laura Ingalls Wilder
by Yona Zeldis McDonough; illustrations by Jennifer Thermes
Henry Holt. 2014
ISBN: 9780805095425
Grades 3-5
This reviewer used an ARC supplied by the publisher.

Laura Ingalls Wilder, who began her writing career in her 60’s, based her Little House books on experiences she had as a child. Though Laura was true to actual events, there are things she decided not to include, such as the death of her baby brother. In Little Author in the Big Woods, McDonough describes more of the details of Laura’s real life, while pointing out the differences from the fictional series as well as the many similarities. She hopes that the reading experience will be deepened by knowing the facts that inspired these beloved stories.

Fans of the Little House series will enjoy learning more about Laura and her family in this narrative biography that extends beyond her marriage to Alonzo but into her writing career and her final years. Did you know that Laura was 87 years old when she took her first plane ride? Of her nine books, five would be award the prestigious Newbery Honor Medal? Thermes black & white illustrations, which pay homage to Garth Williams’ work, are placed throughout the text and convey a sense of joy and playfulness, elements found in Ingalls’ stories.

Back matter includes quotes from Laura, games Laura played, how to make a corn-husk doll, recipes, a glossary, and further reading.

Though there are other biographies about Laura Ingalls Wilder, this particular title, with the larger font and illustrations, will appeal to newly independent readers.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Guys Read: True Stories

Guys Read: True Stories 
edited by Jon Scieszka
illustrated by Brian Floca
Walden Pond Press, 2014
ISBN: 9780061963827
On shelves: Sept. 16, 2014
Grades 4 and up

The reviewer received an advanced copy of the book from the publisher.

Author, Jon Scieszka, has dedicated his life to inspiring boys to read, and he's succeeding. Not only did he serve as the National Ambassador for Young People's Literature. He also created the popular Guys Read website, and he publishes a Guys Read anthology series. The latest addition to the Guys Read library is a real treat for middle grade readers (both boys and girls). In Guys Read: True Stories, Scieszka has compiled outrageous, amazing, and sometimes scary, informational stories from ten authors including Steve Sheinkin, Sy Montgomery, Candace Fleming, and Jim Murphy.

Readers will feel what it's like to be stranded in the Sahara Desert with Captain James Riley, study tarantulas in French Guiana, and learn about the sometimes painful history of dental care. Fans of Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales will appreciate Hale's graphic novel vignette about pioneer Hugh Glass set in 1823. There are also science poems by Douglas Florian, a memoir about growing up in Vietnam by Thanhha Lai, and a biography of Muddy Waters by Elizabeth Partridge.  Each chapter begins with an illustration by Brian Floca and ends with a bibliography of sources.

The beautiful thing about Guys Read True Stories is that it's going to make everyone happy. History and science buffs will love these unbelievable (yet true) stories, reluctant readers won't be able to put it down, and teachers can use the book as a mentor text for writing or as an exciting read aloud. The most difficult aspect is deciding where to shelve it in the library. Do you put it in the series section with the other Guys Read books, shelve it with short stories (800s), or place it in general knowledge in nonfiction with the "survey" books? The answer is to put it on display and watch it get scooped up by the readers in your library.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Strike: the farm workers fight for their rights By Larry Dane Brimmer

Strike: the farm workers fight for their rights
By Larry Dane Brimmer
Calkins Creek. October 2014
ISBN: 9781590789971
Grades 9 thru 12
I used an ARC given by the publisher to write this review.

In 1965, a group of Filipino and Chicano farm workers, unhappy with their deplorable working conditions and substandard wages organized a strike against the grape industry. The strike, which lasted over five years, would evolve into a nation-wide boycott of grapes in all forms, including wine. At the head of this strike was Cesar Chavez. Skillfully researched, Brimmer traces the strike, the role Chavez played in standing up to the big food growers, the development of the United Farm Workers of America (UFWA), and Chavez ongoing fight against the agribusinesses until his death in 1993. 

Brimmer is no stranger to writing quality nonfiction. Cathy and I have reviewed many of his titles on this blog. In Strike, black & white archival photographs and words of the workers, organizers, and growers complement the riveting text. Back matter includes author’s note, bibliography, timeline, source notes, and index.

According to Brimmer, Chavez was not a very dynamic speaker. Yet, he was dedicated and possessed a strong belief that farm workers should be treated with fairness. Though a quiet individual, Chavez often was unwilling to relinquish any control, even in the organizations that were precursors to UFWA. He also believed in nonviolence and gave up many opportunities for employment that would have brought he and his family a comfortable lifestyle. At the time of his death, Chavez was disillusioned with the constant attempts by the growers to undermine any progress in improving the working conditions for workers. He complained that for every step forward, they took two steps back. Even today, working conditions in many fields have gotten worse as the influence of the United Farm Workers has shrunk. Growers refuse to treat the workers with respect. More concerned with their profits, growers refuse to pay a living wage, provide cold fresh water, and stop using harmful pesticides.

Stike is an essential addition to library collections. Add it to any unit on American history, social justice, formation of unions, and agribusiness (Monsanto). Also, though this may be a stretch, I would include Strike in a display with dystopian fiction. It does have a lot of the elements teens enjoy: hopelessness, grim working and horrible living conditions, the minority revolt against big business, fighting, and…an unlikely hero.

¡Sí, se puedo! (Yes, It can be done!)

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Sticky Fingers: DIY Duct Tape Projects Summer Blog Tour

Sticky Fingers: DIY Duct Tape Projects: easy to pick up, hard to put down
Sophie Maletsky
Zest Books. 2014
ISBN: 9781936976546
The publisher sent me a copy of the book to review.
All ages.

We are pleased to take part in the 
Sticky Fingers: DIY Duct Tape Projects 
summer blog tour. 

Teens + duct tape = fun

Whenever the Teen Advisory Board at my library hosts events, duct tape crafts are one of the activities of choice. They never seem to tire of making wallets, flowers, and bracelets, but lately the afterschool crowd has been scouting around for more ideas. Sticky Fingers: DIY Duct Tape Projects is just the book to support their creativity.

sunglasses case
Sophie Maletsky ( is considered a duct tape expert and it shows with this jam-packed instruction book. The assortment of projects is wide-ranging--70+ in all--and is organized for home, for school, and to wear. The ideas range from a checkered beach bag, sunglasses case to a headband and makeup case. Need to clean your room? Try the desk organizer, woven basket or earring tree. Malestsky begins with the basics of brands and types of tapes and takes readers through essential techniques. Color photos that mirror the clearly written step-by-step directions accompany each project.

Sticky Fingers is perfect for those individuals who find duct tape projects (well, all craft projects) intimidating. 

Go here to download a Sticky Fingers Activity Guide.
Here is what other bloggers on the blog tour are saying about Sticky Fingers. 

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Brown Girl Dreaming

Brown Girl Dreaming 
by Jacqueline Woodson
Nancy Paulsen Books, 2014
ISBN: 9780399252518
Grades 4 and up
On shelves Aug. 26, 2014

The reviewer received an advanced copy of the book from the publisher.

I read Brown Girl Dreaming on an airplane flying over the midwest on the way home from the ALA Annual Conference in Las Vegas. I devoured it in one sitting then handed the book to Louise who also read it before we landed. I'm not sure if I can find the words to do justice to this beautifully crafted memoir, but I'll try.

Brown Girl Dreaming is an autobiographical account of Woodson's early life, raised by her mother and grandparents in South Carolina.  Told in verse, Woodson uses the fewest words possible to paint a vivid story of what life was like for her family living in the south in the 1960s. Jackie's point of view is strong, allowing readers to see the story from a child's eyes.

In downtown Greenville,
they painted over the WHITE ONLY signs,
except on the bathroom doors,
they didn't use a lot of paint
so you can still see the words, right there
like a ghost standing in front 
still keeping you out.

When Woodson and her siblings move to New York to live with their mother, the book offers readers a juxtaposition on life in America: north and south, rural and urban, black and white. Throughout the book, it's evident that Woodson had an affinity for writing and telling stories as a child.

How can I explain to anyone that stories are like
air to me,
I breathe them in and let them out over and over 

Louise and I discussed how there are many themes (family, friendship, acceptance and race) from the memoir that appear in Woodson's novels and picture books. Brown Girl Dreaming is a powerful and eloquent memoir that will elicit rich discussions and will serve an inspiration to young writers. I encourage all children's librarians and middle grade teachers to add it to their biography collections. Pair Brown Girl Dreaming with the middle grade novel, One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia, or Allen Say's memoir Painting from Memory.

Other books by Jacqueline Woodson:
Each Kindness
The Other Side
Coming On Home Soon
Show Way

See Jacqueline Woodson discuss her books in this video from