Two intrepid librarians

Two intrepid librarians review the best nonfiction books for children

Monday, October 3, 2022

Infinity: Figuring Out Forever by Sarah C. Campbell

Infinity: Figuring Out Forever
By Sarah C. Campbell; Photographs by Sarah C. Campbell and Richard P. Campbell
Astra Young Readers. An Imprint of Astra Books for Young Readers. 2022

In this informational picture book, husband and wife team, Sarah and Richard Campbell, challenge readers to think deeply about the mathematical concept: “What is infinity?”

Thinking about infinity is tricky. You have already thought of a large number and added one, but that might lead you to make the mistake of thinking infinity is something really, really big. Remember, though, infinity is not something big. Infinity is endlessness.”

Calculus is the branch of mathematics that puts infinity into practical use. NASA scientists use calculus and the idea of infinity when making the calculations to send rockets into space.

The marriage of words and pictures work exceptionally well here as the Campbell’s present the not-so-simple task of defining the concept of infinity. The book includes an author’s note, glossary, further reading(which includes websites and books), and an exercise - The Infinite School and the Surprising Results of Adding with Infinity.

“The next time you find yourself counting stars in the sky, remember that even though the number of stars is finite, your mind has no limits.”

Highly recommended reading aloud for older students. 

Monday, September 26, 2022

The Greatest Song of All written by Megan Hoyt

 The Greatest Song of All: How Isaac Stern United the World to Save Carnegie Hall 
by Megan Hoyt;
Illustrated by Katie Hickey
Quilt Tree Books.
An Imprint of HarperCollins Publishers. 2022

This informational picture book tells the story of how the violinist, Isaac Stern, upon learning that on March 31, 1960 the elegant Carnegie Hall would be demolished, fought to save this historic building in the heart of New York City, built in 1891. 

The narrative is engaging, and would work well for a terrific read aloud in music class to students of all ages. The addition of Hicky's art, rendered in gouache, coloring pencils, and Photoshop to create the digital illustrations, make this an overall engaging read. Read to students of all ages. Please!

Included is an author's note, more historical information about Carnegie Hall, more fascinating stories about Isaac Stern, a timeline, source notes, and the petition written by Stern that was signed by twenty internationally known musician. 

Friday, September 23, 2022

American Murderer


American Murderer: The Parasite That Haunted the South
by Gail Jarrow
Calkins Creek, 2022
Gades 6 and up
On shelves Sept. 27, 2022

American Murderer is the highly anticipated third book in Gail Jarrow's Medical Fiasco series.  Jarrow is known for writing about medical conditions and illnesses from an historical perspective. Her latest work focuses on a mystery illness that plagued rural communities in the South at the turn of the 20th century. 

Readers will be drawn into the story from the first chapter (entitled "Vampire") as Jarrow describes a "deathly, pale, hunched-over figure" standing on a train platform. A scientists on the train indicates the man is a victim of "America's bloodsucking murderer." 

The medical mystery is solved by parasitologist, Charles Wardell Stiles, who studied parasites and hookworms in Europe. Stiles identified the Necator americanus or American Murderer, a bloodsucking parasite that attaches to the intestines and cause anemia. pica and malnourishment. While Stiles traveled through the South sharing a cure for hookworm, Arthur Loos was determined to figure out how Americans are getting infected with the parasite. This leads to the story to another medical mystery for scientists to solve.

The engaging narrative grounded in mystery will keep readers turning the pages. Microscopic images of hookworms magnified 700 times (such as the cover image) are terrifying and fascinating. Primary documents such as posters, newspaper articles, cartoons, and photographs are thoughtfully placed throughout the book.

Equal parts science and history, readers will be surprised to learn how doctors, politicians and the public viewed and responded to this common and debilitating illness dubbed the "lazy germ." As government and philanthropic groups were created to study and eradicate hookworm in the South, the book explores issues of class, race, geography, and social status. Jarrow finds connections to present day in the final chapter, "The BloodSucker Lives On."

Highly recommended for public libraries, school libraries, and biology and American History classes. 

Monday, September 19, 2022

Side-By-Side Declaration of Independence: with side-by-side “plain English” translations! by David Miles

The Side-by-Side Declaration of Independence: with side-by-side “plain English” translations!
by David Miles 
Bushel & Peck Books. 2021

At a time in our world, when words are being twisted to serve a particular purpose, this 2021 title offers a visually appealing presentation of America’s historical document that was the first step in our democracy. 

In, Side-By-Side Declaration of Independence, Miles pairs the original text of the Declaration of Independence with “plain English.”

The book begins with five pages to explain the “Buildup to the Declaration,” then a brief explanation on “How To Use This Book.” The left-hand pages are in red and show the original text from the Declaration of Independence, written in 1776. The right-hand pages, in blue, provide the “Plain English” translation. The addition of pictures of Founding Fathers, maps, and additional information places what the text is saying into a historical context.

Let me give you an example:

Original text: “When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.”

Plain English: “When a group wants to separate from another group and be independent, it’s polite to explain why.”

The book’s design uses collage illustrations from visuals sourced from illustrator Albert Pinilla, public domain archives, and Shutterstock. Though each double-page spread is quite active visually, the pairing of original document translated into present day English, historical facts, pictures of historical figures makes this a attractive and engaging. Because of the topic, older readers studying American history will find it very useful. 

Monday, September 12, 2022

Cover Reveal- Supermoms!: Animal Heroes

We are excited to reveal the cover of Supermoms!: Animal Heroes by Heather Lang and Jamie Harper today.

Supermoms! is an engaging, nonfiction picture book that is part of the Animal Heroes series from Candlewick. Look for Supermoms! in the spring of 2023.  We're looking forward to getting out hands on this science picture book with comic book elements.

Friday, September 9, 2022

10 Ways to Discover and Share Nonfiction with Young People


The Kids Love Nonfiction team of Mary Ann Cappiello, Melissa Stewart and Xenia Hadjioannou have created a flyer with tips for sharing nonfiction with young people. 

Click here to view the flyer.  Feel free to share this wonderful resources with parents, caregivers, teachers and librarians. If you share on social media, use the hashtag #KidsLoveNonfiction.

Monday, September 5, 2022

New Nonfiction- September 2022


Deadliest Fires Then and Now
by Deborah Hopkinson
Scholastic Focus

Dazzlin' Dolly
by Suzanne Slade and Edwin Fotheringham
Calkins Creek

Peace is a Chain Reaction
by Tanya Lee Stone
Candlewick Press

American Murderer: The Parasite That Haunted the South
by Gail Jarrow
Calkins Creek

A River's Gifts: The Mighty Elwha River Reborn
by Patricia Newman and Natasha Donovan
Millbrook Press

Call Him Jack: The Story of Jackie Robinson, Black Freedom Fighter
by Yohuru Williams and Michael G. Long
Farrar, Straus and Giroux

A Life of Service: The Story of Senator Tammy Duckworth
by Christina Soontornvat and Dow Phumiruk
Candlewick Press

Dressing Up the Stars
by Jeanne Walker Harvey and Diana Toledano
Beach Lane Books

Play Like a Girl: A Graphic Memoir
by Misty Wilson and David Wilson
Balzer + Bray

Secrets of the Lost City: A Scientific Adventure in the Honduran Rain Forest
by Sandra Markle
Millbrook Press

Shapes, Lines and Light: My Grandfather's American Journey
by Katie Yamasaki
Norton Young Readers

Maya's Song
 by Renee Watson and Bryan Collier

Bobby: A Story of Bobby Kennedy
by Deborah Wiles and Tatyana Fazlalizadeh
Scholastic Press

Rescue of the Bounty: Disaster and Survival in Superstorm Sandy
True Rescue Series
 by Michael J. Tougias and Douglas A. Campbell
Henry Holt and Co.

Over and Under the Waves
by Kate Messner and Christopher Silas Neal
Chronicle Books

Victory. Stand!: Raising My Fist for Justice
by Tommie Smith, Derrick Barnes and Dawud Anyabwile
Norton Young Readers

Friday, September 2, 2022

If You're a Kid Like Gavin words by Gavin Grimm and Kyle Lukoff


If You're a Kid Like Gavin: the True Story of a Young Trans Activist 
Words by Gavin Grimm
and Kyle Lukoff;
Illustrations by J Yang
Katherine Tegen Books.
An Imprint of HarperCollins Publishers. 2022

In this simply told powerful and empowering informational picture book memoir readers meet Gavin Grimm. "When you're a kid like Gavin Grimm, you know yourself best." Gavin knew he was a boy even though others saw him as a girl. His family supported his decision to trans to boy and be called, Gavin. But, would Gavin be able to use the boy's bathroom at school?

The book covers Gavin's fight - which went all the way to the Supreme Court - to uphold the right for trans kids to chose which bathroom they feel comfortable using. 

"But, when you're a kid like Gavin Grimm, you know the only choice you have is to fight back. To stand up for yourself. And your right to use the bathroom as yourself. And your right to be in school as yourself."

The tone of the book is calm, loving, supportive, while encouraging readers to believe in themselves and have confidence to speak up when they feel they are not being heard. 

Yang's full-page cartoon-like illustrations are rendered in Photoshop, Clip Studio Paint, Cintiq Companion 2, Wacom Bamboo CTH470, Dell Studio XPS 9000 PC on Windows 10, "and a good deal of effort to create the digital illustrations for this book."

A note from both authors rounds out this very important memoir.


Monday, August 29, 2022

Cher Ami Written by Melisande Potter; illustrated by Giselle Potter


Cher Ami: Based on the World War I Legend of the Fearless Pigeon
Written by Melisande Potter;
Illustrated by Giselle Potter.
Christy Ottaviano Books.
An imprint of Little, Brown and Company. 2022

In October 1918, A “Lost Battalion” of 694 American soldiers were isolated by German Troops. Would they survive and be rescued? Cher Ami is the story of the messenger pigeon who saved 194 of those soldiers.

During World War 1, over six hundred homing pigeons were trained to carry messages between US and French troops. With a little tiny metal canister fastened to her left foot, Cher Ami completed twelve dangerous missions. Then, one day, Cher Ami is the soldiers only hope to be saved from capture. Even with a gunshot wound to her chest, Cher Ami flies for twenty-five miles until, exhausted, she reaches her home loft. 

The full-page illustrations, done in watercolor and ink on paper, place Cher Ami center stage. 

Cher Ami is listed as nonfiction, but, truly, based on K.T. Horning’s book, From Cover to Cover: Evaluating and Reviewing Children’s Books, it definitely leans towards fiction. Potter explains in the author's note that she used a blend of truth and legend to relay this exciting tale. Even the illustrator admits that she made some adjustments to the accuracy of the pictures to make Cher Ami’s story seem more accessible visually. Still, this engaging picture book, done by mother and daughter, will certainly spark curiosity in readers of all ages.

Author and illustrator note, and source notes included. 

Friday, August 26, 2022

Choosing Brave


Choosing Brave: How Mamie Till-Mobley and Emmett Till Sparked the Civil Rights Movement
by Angela Joy
illustrated by Janelle Washington
Roaring Brook Press, 2022
Grades 3 and up

This powerful picture book biography highlights the life of Mamie Till-Mobley and her role in the civil rights movement after the death of her son, Emmett. Don't be fooled by the length or picture book format of this book. The book does not shy away from the horrific murder of Emmett Till and the racism of the Jim Crow era.

On the first page, Emmett's body has been discovered in a river Mississippi, and Mamie requests he be sent home. As the narrative shifts back to Mamie's childhood, education and marriage to Louis Till, readers learn about the source of Mamie's strength and love for her son. Joy's writing is lyrical and poetic as she paints a vivid portrait of a strong mother who "did the braver thing" and opened her son's casket for the world to see what happened to her son. 

Washington's cut paper illustrations and use of negative space are captivating. The black, tan and light blue backgrounds contrasted against the intricate cut paper images set a serious and historic tone. After attending the murder trial where the accused were found not guilty of Emmett's murder, Mamie became active with the NAACP and traveled the country sharing her story.

Extensive back matter includes an author's note, illustrator's note, sources, list of songs from the soundtrack, glossary, and timeline. Sample artwork from the book can be viewed on Janelle Washington's site.

Younger readers (ages 8-10) would benefit from reading this book with an adult, which may lead to powerful and important conversations. Highly recommended for public libraries, school libraries and middle school social studies classrooms.

Monday, August 22, 2022

The Astronomer Who Questioned Everything by Laura Alary


The Astronomer Who Questioned Everything: The Story of Maria Mitchell.
Written by Laura Alary;
Illustrated by Ellen Rooney.
Kids Can Press. 2022

Maria Mitchell was a trailblazer. Born in 1818 on Nantucket Island, Maria was blessed to have parents, especially her father, an astronomer and mathematician, who encouraged her desire to learn. At night, he would spend hours on the roof showing Maria how to use a telescope, sextant, metronome, and chronometer. Because Maria could read and write, she kept all her learnings in her notebook.          

Once she was an adult needing a job, Maria started her own school, became a librarian, and spent loads of time reading (Books carried her to new places) and studied the stars. It was when the King of Denmark offered a prize to the first person to find a new comet, Maria watched, too. 

Finding the comet opened many doors for this curious young woman. The best, was being invited to be a professor at Vassar College for women in New York. Throughout her life, Maria encouraged girls/women to Question Everything!        

A notable scientist who was the first woman member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, this exciting biography of a woman of firsts will encourage readers to also follow their dreams. The message of Patience, Practice, and Persistence something we all can embrace on our lifelong journey of learning.

Included is an author’s note, and bibliography.         

The illustrations, rendered in collage, perfectly complement the text.           

When Maria attended the weekly Quaker Meetings, “she sat still, her swirling thoughts settled like tea leaves at the bottom of a cup. Then she could see clearly. She knew herself. She was a dreamer. A wonderer. A collector.”

If you haven’t already guessed when reading my other reviews,  I am a huge advocate of not confining informational picture books to a specific age range. I believe that all ages, particularly middle and high school students, will enjoy and benefit from being exposed to these books. 

Friday, August 19, 2022

Jack Knight’s Brave Flight by Jill Esbaum

Jack Knight’s Brave Flight: How One Gutsy Pilot Saved the U.S. Air Mail Service
by Jill Esbaum; Illustrated by Stacy Innerst
Calkins Creek. An imprint of Astra Books for Young Readers. 2022

At 10:44 p.m., on February 22, 1921, in North Platte, Nebraska Jack Knight adjusted his goggles and took off in his open cockpit airplane with six sacks of the U.S. Mail. He thought he’d just have to fly as far as Omaha, but, when he reached Omaha at 1:10 a.m., Jack learned that his replacement couldn’t reach the airport. To save the U.S. Air Mail service, Jack Knight is their only hope. Will he be able to stay awake and fly 830 miles to Chicago? 

In 1921, lawmakers decided to cut funding for the U.S. Air Mail Service as a reaction to the numerous plane crashes. Officials and pilots, outrages by this decision, hatched a plan to save the service. They would prove flying was the fastest way to move mail from coast to coast. What they didn’t expect was a blizzard, sub-zero temperatures. Lucky for them, and us, there was Jack Knight!

Each page is filled with Innerst’s historically accurate illustrations done in watercolor, ink, pencil, rubber stamps, and some digital (Photoshop). They certainly add much excitement to this already thrilling informational picture book. A real page-turner. 

Included is an author’s note, timeline, bibliography, and illustrator’s note.

Even high school students would appreciate hearing this true story of grit and determination.

Monday, August 15, 2022

Fashionopolis: the secrets behind the clothes we wear by Dana Thomas - Young Readers Edition

Fashionopolis: The Secrets Behind the Clothes We Wear
Young Readers Edition
By Dana Thomas
Dial Books for Young Readers. 2022

Writer, Dana Thomas began her career as a culture and fashion correspondent for the Style section of the Washington Post. Currently, she is a contributing editor for British Vogue, and a regular contributor to The New York Times Style section. 

Based on the adult version, Thomas looks at fast-fashion and its overall impact each item of clothing has on our culture and the environment. Readers are encouraged to think about where their clothing comes from. What type of fabric is the item made from? Is it natural or synthetic? Where is that T-shirt made? What are the working conditions of the factory where that dress is made? Do the workers make a living wage or is it slave labor? In a study done in the UK, the average garment is worn only seven times before being thrown away. Clothing not sold are boxed up, shipped back to the company and shredded and burned.

The book is not all bad news. After a history about the fashion industry, starting with the Industrial Revolution, Thomas shares new trends from some well-known fashion designers (Patagonia. Stella McCartney) and how they are working to choose materials that have a smaller carbon footprint. 

The book is advertised for Grades 4-6. However, the lack of any color photos or visual aids to break up the text makes this something to hand to older readers (Grade 7-12) with a particular interested in social justice. 

I’ll end this review with a quote from Dana Thomas in the epilogue: “Today, the fashion industry is a complex and epic-sized mess, and it’s going to take all of their approaches, and many others, to tackle it and build a better, fairer fashion ecosystem. Everyone spotlighted in this book is, in their way, fighting a model that is completely unsustainable. One that celebrates endless consumption, even lower prices (whether achieved by stealing someone’s art or their human rights), and even larger profits. That purposely produces leftovers. That gives no thought at all to the destruction it cases the enviornment.” 

Suggestions for ways to change our shopping patterns is included.

Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Life in Hot Water


Life in Hot Water: Wildlife at the Bottom of the Ocean
written by Mary Batten
illustrated by Thomas Gonzalez
Peachtree Publishing
Grades 3-7

This has been the summer for outstanding science books for children, and Life in Hot Water is a prime example. Batten and Gonzalez take readers on a journey to the depths of the ocean as scientists used a deep-diving human occupied vehicle to discover hydrothermal vents on the ocean floor. 

This expository picture book is a page turner at times as readers get a close-up look at the murky and mysterious ocean floor in Gonzalez's stunning, realistic illustrations. The book incorporates quotes from scientists, providing readers with a first hand account of the discovery of the vents and impact on the scientific world. With each page turn, a new species is introduced including the scaly foot snail, the Pompei worm, tube worms, blind shrimp, and the vent octopus. Readers will also learn about chemosynthesis: chemicals from the vents serves as energy for microbes at the base of the food chain in the absence of sunlight. 

Batten has a gift for writing scientific information in a clear and interesting style while also defining new terms for young readers. Extensive back matter will satisfy those who want to learn more. Visit the publisher's site to view sample pages. If you're looking for more nonfiction picture books by Batten and Gonzalez, don't miss Life in a Frozen World: Wildlife of Antarctica.

Monday, August 8, 2022

Footprints Across the Planet text by Jennifer Swanson

Footprints Across the Planet
Text by Jennifer Swanson
Reycraft Books. An imprint of Newmark Learning. 2022

Swanson’s engaging informational picture book explores the many shapes and sizes of footprints. Large and small, from elephants to those who barely leave any imprint at all (flies), “every footprint leaves a mark on the Earth telling a story of the past, the present, or the future.” 

The mix of color and black&white photos offer a visual clue as to what the text is saying. 
Footprints reveal our past” has a double-page photo of a T Rex.
“And give us a glimpse of the future.” is the Mars Rover.

Footprints represent people who stood up for change” Rosa Parks, RBG, @ellestreetart, and Martin Luther King, Jr. 
“And those who strive to follow them” : Young climate change activities, including Greta Thunberg. 

A visual glossary is included. 

Footprints Across the Planet is powerful and remind us that all our actions have a reaction. 
Swanson, an award-winning author and STEM/STEAM advocate, leaves us with this final question: 
                                                    “What type of mark will you leave behind?”

Wednesday, August 3, 2022

New Nonfiction- August 2022


There are many excellent nonfiction titles scheduled to be released during the month of August, so I organized the list into two categories: STEM and Bio/Memoir/History.

STEM Titles

Infinity: Figuring Out Forever
by Sarah C. Campbell
photographs by Sarah C. Campbell and Richard P. Campbell
Astra Books for Young Readers

The Wolves and Moose of Isle Royale: Restoring an Island Ecosystem
Text by Nancy F. Castaldo
Photographs by Morgan Heim
Clarion Books

How Science Saved the Eiffel Tower
by Emma Bland Smith
Illustrated by Lia Visirin

The Science Spell Book
by Cara Florance

How Was That Built?
by Roma Agrawal
illustrated by Katie Hickey
Bloomsbury Children's Books

Rosalind Looked Closer: An Unsung Hero of Molecular Science
by Lisa Gerin
illustrated by Chiara Fedele
Beaming Books

Hello, World! Kids' Guides: Exploring Sharks
by Jill McDonald
Doubleday Books for Young Readers

Biographies, Memoirs and History Titles

Choosing Brave: How Mamie Till-Mobley and Emmitt Till Sparked the Civil Rights Movement
by Angela Joy
illustrated by Janelle Washington
Roaring Brook Press

Splash!: Ethelda Bleibtrey Makes Waves of Change
by Elisa Boxer
illustrated by Elizabeth Baddeley
Sleeping Bear Press

The Courageous Six Triple Eight: The All-Black Female Battalions of World War II
by Artika R. Tyner
illustrated by Cynthia Paul

Kid Trailblazers: True Tales of Childhood from Changemakers and Leaders
by Robin Stevenson
illustrated by Allison Steinfeld
Quirk Books

Stacey Abrams and the Fight to Vote
by Traci N. Todd
illustrated by Laura Freeman

Road Trip!: Camping with the Four Vagabonds: Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, Harvey Firestone and John Burroughs
by Claudia Friddell
illustrated by Jeremy Holmes
Calkins Creek

Fighting for Yes!: The Story of Disability Rights Activist Judith Heumann
by Marann Cocca-Leffler
illustrated by Vivien Mildenberger
Abrams Books for Young Readers

Pizza!: A Slice of History
by Greg Pizzoli
Viking Books for Young Readers

Once I Was You: Finding My Voice and Passing the Mic
adapted for young readers
by Maria Hinojosa
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

Resistance: My Story of Activism
by Frantzy Luzincourt
Norton Young Readers

It's My Whole Life: Charlotte Salomon: An Artist in Hiding During World War II
by Susan Wider
Norton Young Readers