Two intrepid librarians

Two intrepid librarians review the best nonfiction books for children

Monday, July 28, 2014

The Family Romanov Blog Tour and Giveaway

The Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion & The Fall of Imperial Russia  
by Candace Fleming
Schwartz & Wade Books, 2014
ISBN: 9780375867828
Grades 7 and up

The reviewers received copies of the book from the publisher.

We are pleased to take part in The Family Romanov Blog Tour. Be sure to enter the giveaway at the bottom of the post for a chance to win a copy of the book.

The fate of the Romanovs, the last ruling monarchy in Russia, has been the subject of many books and movies. People hoped the Grand Duchess Anastasia had escaped the bloody massacre that befell the rest of her family: Tsar Nicholas II & Empress Alexandra, sisters Olga, Tatiana and Marie, and brother Alexi. But by 2007, the skeletal remains of all family members had been unearthed, thus putting the “Anastasia-is-still-alive” myth to rest.
 
In this comprehensive history by award-winning author Candace Fleming, readers will get an intimate look at the Romanov family and how their indifference to the needs of their people led to the workers’ strikes of 1905 and to Lenin’s rise to power in November 1915. Using sidebars throughout the book, Fleming inserts personal stories of the men and women who wished for a better life and how the Tsar’s lack of concern, in the end, would affect the lives of the Romanov family.

Louise's Thoughts:
As a child and into adulthood, I was obsessed with the fate of Grand Duchess Anastasia. I wanted to believe she alone survived while other family members perished. Questions I often pondered: why was her family executed? Was Tsar Nicholas really indifferent to the needs of his people? And…who exactly was Rasputin? Was he the evil and manipulating man some made him out to be? Breathtaking in its scope, Fleming's does an excellent job weaving in the answers to these questions and more. What is different from her previous titles (Amelia Lost: the life and disappearance of Amelia Earhart and The Lincoln's: a scrapbook look at Abraham and Mary) is the book’s overall design. The Family Romanov resembles a traditional nonfiction book where the text is uninterrupted and photos are grouped together on glossy paper and placed in the middle of the book. It works really well here because there is so much depth in what Fleming is covering.

Cathy's Thoughts:
From the first chapter, I felt like I had been transported to turn of the century Russia. Fleming hooks readers by describing what it was like to attend a ball at the Winter Palace of the royal family and then contrasts it with the story of the impoverished Russian peasants. Fleming's captivating writing style, impeccable research and use of quotes made this a book I couldn't put down. Fleming paints a complex portrait of the Romanovs, which caused me to feel a range of emotions as I read. At times I was infuriated by their luxurious lifestyle while the majority of Russians suffered in poverty, yet other times I felt pity for the family. Nicholas and Alexandra were out of touch and intimidated by the outside world, they sheltered their children, and desperately tried to keep their ill son in good health. As I read the story of the Romanovs, their strange relationship with Rasputin, the plight of the factory workers & peasants and the rise of the Communist Party, I wished I had this book when I was required to read Animal Farm as a high school sophomore. 

Visit Candace Fleming's blog for more information about how she researched and chose the photographs for the book, how she worked from two calendar systems (Julian and Gregorian),  and more.

  • We are giving away one copy of The Family Romanov.
  • You must be 13 years or older to enter.
  • Only one entry per person will be accepted.
  • Entries will be accepted until 11:59 p.m. on August 1, 2014.
  • The winner will be contacted by email. If the winner does not respond within 48 hours, we will select a new winner.



Friday, July 25, 2014

Bugged: how insects changed history by Sarah Albee

Bugged: how insects changed history
by Sarah Albee; Illustrations by Robert Leighton
Walker Books. 2014
ISBN: 9780802734235
I reviewed a copy sent from the publisher.
Perfect for grades 6 and up


Sarah Albee (Poop Happened: a history of the world from the bottom up) is back with another romp through history. This time, Albee explains how insects have changed history.

Insects have been around since the beginning of time. Over ten quintillion of them exist throughout the world. We try to control them or eliminate them, but they keep coming back. Sometimes stronger than ever! Using a humorous voice with a bit of an attitude, and incorporating fun and informational graphics, Bugged is not your everyday history book. It is a combination of world history, social history, natural science, epidemiology, public health, conservation, and microbiology. 

Readers will learn that there are good and bad insects. Some bugs, like honeybees and silkworms, are beneficial. While other bugs -- fleas and mosquitoes -- transmit diseases that killed a huge number of people through plagues and epidemics. In the U.S., between 1874 and 1876, locust darkened the skies from the Dakotas down to Texas. Crops were devoured in minutes, as was the wool right off the bodies of live sheep! Throughout human history, insects have contributed to some of the most interesting, deadly, and shocking episodes.

Bugged: how insects changed history is well researched. Back matter includes a glossary of terms, bibliography of print material for further reading and websites, source notes, and index.


In world history courses, add Bugged to the reading list. It will complement what students are studying, while injecting a bit of humor.

Monday, July 21, 2014

A Boy and a Jaguar

A Boy and a Jaguar 
by Alan Rabinowitz
illustrated by Catia Chien
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014
ISBN: 9780547875071
Grades K-5

The reviewer borrowed a copy of the book from the public library.

Wildlife conservationist, Alan Rabinowitz, stuttered as a child. However, he had a gift for talking to animals. Alan's parents took him to doctors and specialists looking for a cure for his stuttering, but it was the zoo that held the answer. At the Bronx Zoo, Alan fluently whispered a promise to a jaguar.

Young readers will empathize with Rabinowitz in this picture book autobiography. As an adult, Rabinowitz kept his promise and used his voice to speak for the animals, including the jaguar. Chien's acrylic illustrations capture the emotions of the characters. On one page, Alan stares out into the dark blue sky. The only words on the two-page spread read, "I can speak, but nothing has changed on the inside. I still feel broken." This is a contrast to the rich colors of the jungle on the following pages where Alan reflects, "The jungle makes me feel more alive than I have ever felt."

A Boy and a Jaguar is an inspirational true story of a young man who overcame adversity and had an impact on the world. Pair this book with The Watcher: Jane Goodall's Life with the Chimps or On a Beam of Light: A Story of Albert Einstein.

This book was also reviewed by...
Librarian's Quest
Waking Brain Cells



Friday, July 18, 2014

Hidden like Anne Frank by Marcel Prins

Hidden Like Anne Frank: 14 true stories of survival
by Marcel Prins and Peter Henk Steenhuis; translated by Laura Watkinson
An Arthur A. Levine Book; Scholastic. 2014
ISBN: 9789545543620
Grades 7 thru 12
To review this book, I checked a copy out from my local public library


Anne Frank recorded in her diary the two years the Frank family spent in hiding during World War II. Though Anne’s story is the most well known, Prins, an award-winning documentary filmmaker and cameraman, and journalist Peter Henk Steenhuis, give us 14 individuals, also from the Netherlands, and share their experience going into hiding. Some children were as young as three or four; some teenagers. About 28,000 Jews were hidden in the Netherlands. “Roughly 16,000 survived and 12,000 were caught or betrayed

As a boy growing up in the Netherlands, Marcel Prins was curious about his mother’s experience of going into hiding during World War II. She would tell Marcel about the exciting parts, and the times when she had been scared or sad. Her story (the first in this collection) would make an impression on Marcel. He wondered what going into hiding actually involved. Where did you go? How did you know who to trust? How did you find money to pay for your hiding place? What did you do when you were frightened?

In these 14 true stories, written in first-person by the individuals, readers gain a first-hand account of what it was really like for many Jewish children who went into hiding during World War II. Some lived with people they knew; others lived with complete strangers. There were those who were treated with love and kindness; while others were beaten. Told in first person, each story is in the voice of the individual as they reach back over fifty years into their memories to share their painful experience.  

At the beginning of each entry a map shows the places in the Netherlands where that person went into hiding. Black & white photographs of the individuals and their families before they went into hiding, places where they were living while in hiding, and of scenes from that time. Back matter has photos of each survivor as an adult and glossary of words or names that may be unfamiliar to readers.


Hidden Like Anne Frank is powerful because each heartbreaking entry recounts this traumatic period from the survivor’s childhood. The website that accompanies this book includes one or more animated films that illustrate the memories of the survivors. 

Monday, July 14, 2014

Everybody Paints!

Everybody Paints!: The Lives and Art of the Wyeth Family 
by Susan Goldman Rubin
Chronicle Books, 2014
ISBN: 9780811869843
Grades 5 and up

As a child growing up in Maine, Wyeth was a well-known name in my home. I vividly remember visiting the Portland Museum of Art with my parents the year I was in 6th grade for a special exhibition of Andrew Wyeth's tempera paintings. I was pleased to learn that Susan Goldman Rubin had published a history of the Wyeth family for young readers. Rubin has a background in art, and has written some top-notch biographies about many artists including Georgia O'Keefe, Edward Hopper, Diego Rivera, and Andy Warhol.

Everybody Paints! tells the story of three generations of Wyeth artists: N.C., Andrew and Jamie. The book's title is derived from a quote by Jamie Wyeth, "Everybody in my family paints, excluding possibly the dogs." Written in a narrative style, the story is structured chronologically beginning with N.C.'s early life growing up in the late 19th century. Rubin uses quotes to fill in the details of the narrative as she tells the story of how N.C. Wyeth convinced his parents to let him study art when he was a young man. N.C. studied art with Howard Pyle and found success as an illustrator for children's books such as Treasure Island and as an artist for Scribner's and The Saturday Evening Post.

N.C. gave art lessons to his children and encouraged them to draw and paint at their home in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania. His youngest son, Andrew, shared his father's passion for art and became a successful artist known for his watercolor and tempera paintings including Christina's World and The Helga Pictures. The Wyeth family owns a summer home in Cushing, Maine, therefore the state is the setting for many Wyeth landscapes and portraits. Andrew's son Jamie showed an early talent for drawing. He was surrounded by the work of his father and grandfather, and studied painting with his aunt. Some of Jamie's best known works include a portrait of President Kennedy he was commissioned to paint for Jackie Kennedy in 1967 and a portrait of Andy Warhol he painted in 1976.

The unique design and size of the book (112 pages and 8 1/4 inches in height) will entice readers to pick it up and read it. Each glossy page is a different color, and full page images of paintings and illustrations by the Wyeths are placed throughout the book. This is effective in providing reference points for young readers who are not familiar with the Wyeths' art. Back matter includes a list of locations where artwork may be viewed, image credits, bibliography, and index. Source notes are available on the author's website.

Everybody Paints! is an inspiring story that will encourage budding artists to devote their energy to their art, and it exposes young readers to three important American artists. Teachers could even read aloud Everybody Paints! as part of a nonfiction unit or integrated art unit.

If you find yourself in midcoast Maine next month, you could meet Jamie Wyeth and Susan Goldman Rubin. They will be signing copies of Everybody Paints! at the Farnsworth Museum in Rockland on August 7th.  http://farnsworthmuseum.org/event/book-signing-jamie-wyeth-everybody-paints


Saturday, July 12, 2014

A Woman in the House (and Senate) by Ilene Cooper

A Woman in the House (and Senate): how women came to the United States Congress, broke down barriers, and changed the country.
By Ilene Cooper; Illustrations by Elizabeth Baddeley
Abrams. 2014
ISBN: 9781419710360
Grades 7 and up
I borrowed a copy of this book from my local public library.

It is interesting what we take for granted, especially the opportunities for women. Now girls are told that when they grow up they can be whatever they want: lawyer, doctor, scientist, musician, athlete, or the president of the United States. The sky’s the limit! But there was a time when  - and not that long ago – a women’s career choice was very limited. In A Woman in the House (and Senate), Ilene Cooper offers readers a fascinating look at American history and how a few women, those who desired something more, would break down barriers and go where no woman had gone before; their victories, and defeats, opened doors for other women.

From the first Congress, in 1789, until the 65th Congress, in 1917, women served neither in the House of Representatives nor the Senate. It wasn’t until the folks from Montana sent the first woman to the U.S. Congress. Her name was Jeannette Rankin and she took her oath of office, along with the male members, on March 5, 1917 in the House of Representatives.  

The book is a lesson in civics, as well as an account of the lives of the women who helped shape it. Cooper begins with the women’s suffrage movement and takes us up to the 2012 election where the 113th Congress welcomed the most women to the Senate in history! Of the 100-member body, one-fifth were women. The book is divided into eight parts that focuses on a particular time of major social changes, such as The Roaring Twenties and Prohibition, the Great Depression and through McCarthyism, The Civil Rights Movement and the Vietnam War. Within each part are brief portraits of the women who were in office during that period and what they did--and didn't--accomplish. 

The writing is fresh, erudite, and highly entertaining. There are lots of photos and illustrations by Baddeley enhance the reading experience. Back matter includes a mini civics lesson in the appendix, a complete list of women in Congress, endnotes, bibliography, and index.

As Former U.S. Senator Olympia Snowe states in the introduction, 
If we are to celebrate and strengthen the vast array of options available to girls and women today, we must learn about those who fought to give life and reality to our dreams. If we are to attain our fullest potential as a nation and exercise our rights as Americans, we must understand that those rights came to us not by entitlement but by tenacity and perseverance.

To learn more about the women who served in Congress, 

Monday, July 7, 2014

Schneider Family Book Award 10th Anniversary Blog Tour and Giveaway


We're pleased to take part in the Schneider Family Book Award 10th Anniversary blog tour.  Alyson Beecher, chair of the Schneider Family Book Award, shared the Top Ten Schneider Award Favorites on the Nerdy Book Club blog yesterday.

The Schneider Family Book Award is an American Library Association Award that honors "an author or illustrator for a book that embodies an artistic expression of the disability experience for child and adolescent audiences." The criteria states that the book may be fiction or nonfiction. Over the past ten years, two nonfiction books have won the award. This year the winning book for younger children was the picture book biography, A Splash of Red: The Life and Art of Horace Pippin, by Jen Bryant and Melissa Sweet.


Louise reviewed A Splash of Red on our blog last year. We had the honor of seeing Jen and Melissa receive the Schneider Family Book Award at the ALA Awards Ceremony in Las Vegas last week.



In 2010 Bonnie Christensen won the Schneider Family Book Award for her picture book biography, Django: World's Greatest Jazz Guitarist.

Louise's thoughts on Django:
What attracted my husband to me when we first met was that I owned a Django Reinhardt record (we're talking vinyl here, folks). He turned to me and said, "I see you have excellent taste in music." I knew I did because no one has ever equaled Django's sound and technique. His music is fun, and Reinhardt's ability to move up and down that fret board lightning fast, making chords all with only two fingers makes him the perfect subject for the Schneider Family Book Award.

Using a rhythmic narrative, this informational picture book biography gives readers a brief overview of the life of the world's greatest jazz guitarist. Readers learn of Reinhardt's birth in 1910 in a gypsy encampment to his playing music throughout Europe, the accident that injured his left hand and up to 1930 when to took his first steps into performing in France.

"Django's only just beginning,
Bright and brillian stages waiting
Django's gypsy jazz guitar.
To float on music to the stars,
Float on music to the stars."

Cathy's thoughts on Django:
I had the pleasure of meeting Bonnie Christensen on a shuttle bus after the Newbery/Caldecott Banquet in Washington, D.C. in 2010. We chatted about our families and our hometowns. Near the end of our ride, Bonnie mentioned that her book, Django, had received the Schneider Family Book Award. Bonnie told me what an honor it was to win the award and said she would be signing copies of Django the next morning. The next day, I stood in line in the exhibit hall and had Bonnie sign a copy of the book for my school library. 

When I  returned to school in the fall, I read Django to my third grade classes as part of a biography unit. Christensen's lyrical narrative and muted, oil illustrations captivated my students. The children were inspired by Reindhardt's  determination to continue performing after suffering serious injuries to his hand in a fire. None of my third grade students had heard of Django Reinhardt before reading the picture book. Thanks to the work of Bonnie Christensen and the Schneider Family Book Award, a new generation of readers know about Django Reinhart's inspiring story of overcoming adversity.

Check out all of the blogs taking part in the Schneider Family Book Award 10th Anniversary Blog Tour & Giveaway:

July 6 Nerdy Book Club  http://nerdybookclub.wordpress.com/
July 6 Kid Lit Frenzy  http://www.kidlitfrenzy.com
July 7 Nonfiction Detectives  http://www.nonfictiondetectives.com
July 9 Teach Mentor Texts http://www.teachmentortexts.com
July 10 There’s a Book For That  http://thereisabookforthat.com
July 11 Kathie Comments  http://kathiecomments.wordpress.com/
July 12 Disability in Kidlit http://disabilityinkidlit.wordpress.com/
July 14 Librarian in Cute Shoes  http://librarianincuteshoes.blogspot.com/
July 15 The Late Bloomer’s Book Blog http://thelatebloomersbookblog.blogspot.com/
July 16 Read, Write, and Reflect  http://readwriteandreflect.blogspot.com/
July 17 Read Now Sleep Later  http://www.readnowsleeplater.com/
July 18 Unleashing Readers  http://www.unleashingreaders.com/
July 19 Great Kid Books http://greatkidbooks.blogspot.ca/
July 20 Maria’s Mélange  http://www.mariaselke.com/

In honor of the 10th anniversary of the Schneider Family Book Award, the blog tour will give away the winning titles from 2014. One person will win a set of all 3 Schneider Family Book Award Winners from 2014. Participants must be 13 years or older and have a U.S. or Canadian mailing address.



a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Post-ALA Report

We're back in Maine after four busy days of publisher previews, dinners, meetings, presentations, awards ceremonies, and time in the exhibit hall scouting out new books at the American Library Association's Annual Conference in Las Vegas. It's a wonderful opportunity to find out about new books and to talk directly with publishers and authors about their work.

Here are some upcoming nonfiction titles we're looking forward to reviewing on the blog this year.

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
Publication Date: 8/28/14
Nancy Paulsen Books

Everybody Paints: The Lives and Art of the Wyeth Family by Susan Goldman Rubin
On shelves now
Chronicle Books


The Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion, and the Fall of Imperial Russia by Candace Fleming
Publication Date: 7/8/14
Schwartz & Wade

Freedom Summer: The 1964 Struggle for Civil Rights in Mississippi by Susan Goldman Rubin
On shelves now
Holiday House

Ida M. Tarbell: The Woman Who Challenged Big Business- and Won!
 by Emily Arnold McCully
Publication Date: 7/8/14
Clarion Books

Ivan: The Remarkable True Story of a Shopping Mall Gorilla by Katherine Applegate
Publication Date: 10/7/14
Clarion Books

Little Author in the Big Woods: A Biography of Laura Ingalls Wilder
 by Yona Zeldis McDonough and Jennifer Thermes
Publication Date: 9/16/14
Henry Holt and Co.

The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus by Jen Bryant and Melissa Sweet
Publication Date: 9/15/14
Eerdman's

Star Stuff: Carl Sagan and the Mysteries of the Cosmos by Stephanie Roth Sisson
Publication Date: 10/14/14
Roaring Brook Press

Strike!: The Farm Workers' Fight for Their Rights by Larry Dane Brimner
Publication Date: 10/1/14
Calkins Creek Books

A Woman in the House (and Senate) by Ilene Cooper
On shelves now
Harry N. Abrams


While we were in Las Vegas we took part in a panel presentation, Common Core IRL: In Real Libraries, with our friends Mary Ann Scheuer from Great Kids Books and Alyson Beecher from Kid Lit Frenzy.


Our presentation focused on how to evaluate nonfiction and bring quality nonfiction books into the classroom to help students meet Common Core State Standards.

Here are the slides from our presentation.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Babe Conquers the World

Babe Conquers the World: The Legendary Life of Babe Didrikson Zaharias 
by Rich Wallace and Sandra Neil Wallace
Calkins Creek (an imprint of Boyds Mill Press), 2014
ISBN: 9781590789810
Grades 4-12

The reviewer received a galley from the publisher.

Most children probably don't realize there was a time when women weren't allowed to play professional sports or when society frowned upon women taking part in athletics. That was before Babe Didrikson paved the way for female athletes. Middle grade and teen readers will be enthralled with the story of Babe Didrikson Zaharias's life in the biography,  Babe Conquers the World.

It is evident the Wallaces did a lot of research for this book. The details they uncovered about Babe's career as a basketball player, Olympic athlete, and amateur golfer will pull readers into the story and keep them engaged. The authors effectively weave quotes into the narrative as they describe the rise of Babe as an elite athlete at the beginning of the the 20th century. Babe faced many roadblocks along the way, but her determination, grit, and passion helped her break down barriers for herself and other women. However, the authors do not shy away from writing about Babe's flaws, including her difficulty in being part of a team.

Black and white photographs and primary documents interspersed throughout the book give readers a view into Babe's life and into what life was like in the early 1900s. Back matter includes a glossary, timeline, frequently asked questions, source notes, and bibliography.

Babe Conquers the World would make an exciting read aloud that could lead to rich discussions in the classroom or at home.  Readers who are inspired by Babe's story may also enjoy Amelia Lost by Candace Fleming, Wilma Unlimited by Kathleen Krull and Mermaid Queen by Shana Corey.

Be sure to read Sandra Neil Wallace's post on the Kidlit Celebrates Women's History Month blog.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Boundaries: how the Mason-Dixon line settled a family feud & divided a nation
Sally M. Walker
Candlewick Press. 2014
ISBN: 9780763656126
Grades 9-12
I borrowed a copy of this book from my local public library.

Life is interesting. Several months ago, before I knew about Boundaries by Sally M. Walker, I stumbled across an article on NationalGeographic’s news site “Saving the Mason-Dixon Line” by Bijal P. Trivedi.  Written in 2002, Trivedi writes of how two present day surveyors have spent over ten years locating and documenting each and every stone laid by Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon during the years 1763-67.  The stones that mark this infamous boundary, after 200 years, are weathering, damaged, vandalized or missing altogether.  You can imagine my delight to then find a book, by Sally M. Walker, no less, that would give me the history on the creation of the Mason-Dixon Line and some background information on the men who completed this scientific feat. As Walker explains in her introduction, The story of the Mason-Dixon Line encompasses many different boundaries, some hundreds of years old. The history of this line begins with a country, the religious persecution of its own people, and a fierce property dispute.

The book is well documented, and though it explains what led up to the decision to create a clear boundary marker between Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Delaware, Walker does an excellent job explaining the scientific method the surveyor’s used to ensure the boundary was accurate. Complementing the text are many historic photographs. Sidebars are distinguished from the main text by placing the words in italics. The inclusion of an author’s note, index, source notes, bibliography, and index make this an excellent example of quality nonfiction.

Boundaries is a great addition to units studying American History or Astronomy.


Listen to the song, Sailing to Philadelphia that Mark Knopfler wrote after reading Thomas Pynchon’s novel, Mason & Dixon.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Great News!


We were informed yesterday that The Nonfiction Detectives blog was named one of the 
Top 15 Kidlit and YA Book Review Sites by Children's Book Insider.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Nonfiction Happenings at ALA's Annual Conference



Louise and I are headed to Las Vegas later this week to attend the American Library Association's Annual Conference. Look out Las Vegas... the Nonfiction Detectives haven't been together at an ALA Annual Conference since we traveled to New Orleans in 2011. We're looking forward to meeting authors, networking with other librarians, and chatting with publishers about upcoming titles.

If you're headed to ALA, here are some nonfiction-related events that you'll want to be sure to attend.

Saturday, June 28

10:00-11:00 Meet Sibert Honor winner, Brian Floca at the Simon & Schuster Booth (302-303)

10:15-10:45 Book Buzz Theater- Lerner Publishing Group's Hottest Fall 2014 Titles

10:30-12:00 Poster Session: Get the Facts! Nonfiction, Informational Reading and Literature for Youth

3:30-4:30 Meet Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor winner, Kadir Nelson at the Harper Collins Children's Booth (503). He'll be signing copies of Nelson Mandela.



Sunday, June 29


10:30-11:30 Common Core IRL: In Real Libraries (Room S228)
Louise and I will be taking part in a panel presentation with Alyson Beecher from Kid Lit Frenzy and Mary Ann Sheuer from the Great Kid Books blog. The session will focus on how to bring high quality nonfiction texts into classrooms to address Common Core State Standards.
Click here for more information.

1:00-2:00 Pop Top Stage: John Lewis and Andrew Aydin will discuss their graphic novel,  March: Book One.

Monday, June 30


10:00-10:45 Meet Sibert Medal winners, Susan L. Roth and Cindy Trumbore, at the Lee & Low Booth (626)

10:00-11:00 Meet Sibert Honor winners, Melissa Sweet and Jen Bryant, at the Random House Book (543)

10:30-10:45 Book Buzz Theater- DK 2014: What's New in Nonfiction


Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Grandfather Gandhi

Grandfather Gandhi 
by Arun Gandhi and Bethany Hegedus
illustrated by Evan Turk
Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2014
ISBN: 9781442423657
Grades 2-6

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

Readers of all ages will be inspired by this beautiful picture book memoir co-written by the grandson of Mahatma Gandhi. In Grandfather Gandhi, Arun Gandhi recalls leaving South Africa to live near his grandfather in an ashram in India.

The first person narrative allows readers to see the story from the point of view of a young Arun who is worried about living up to his family's famous name.  Turk's gorgeous, mixed media illustrations use watercolor, cut paper collage, cotton, yarn, pencil and tinfoil on a background of paper stained by tea. The illustrations effectively capture the emotions of the story. As Arun has a difficult time adjusting to life in India, the illustrations change to reflect his frustration. When Arun and his grandfather share a meaningful moment during a walk, Turk illustrates their shadows cast over a golden landscape.

The power of the story comes when an angry Arun lashes out at his playmates during a soccer game then seeks out his grandfather for comfort. Gandhi shares an analogy that anger is like electricity, and we have the ability to choose between turning our anger into lightning or a lamp.

"Arun, we can all work to use our anger, instead of letting it use us."

The strong central message makes this a powerful book to read aloud to children of all ages. The book's website even has a "Live Your Life as Light" pledge that readers may take. http://grandfathergandhi.com/live-your-life-as-light/

Visit the Grandfather Gandhi website to access discussion guides, a reader's theater script and to view a video interview with the author and illustrator.


Other reviews:

Friday, June 13, 2014

Plant a Pocket of Prairie by Phyllis Root

Plant a Pocket of Prairie
Written by Phyllis Root; Illustrated by Betsy Bowen
University of Minnesota Press. 2014
ISBN: 9780816679805
Preschool and up
I borrowed a copy of this book from my local public library.

When Laura Ingalls and her family were traveling from the Big Woods in Wisconsin to their Little House on the Prairie, over 40 percent of the United States was covered in native prairies. But, like everything else, these beautiful ecosystems are highly endangered. 
Less than one percent of native prairies remain, making them one of the most endangered ecosystems in the world. 
To help children see what Laura saw on her wagon ride west, and to understand how one change can affect every other part, author Phyllis Root encourages children to recreate this habitat by growing native prairie plants in their own backyards.

Plant a pocket of prairie in your backyard, boulevard or boxes on a balcony. If you plant a pocket of prairie, who might come?

Based on the attitude of “if-you-plant-it-they-will-come,” this cumulative tale educates readers on how each native plant planted will attract a bird or insect that will then attract something else.

Plant goldenrod. A Great Plains toad might flick its tongue at goldenrod soldier beetles. Not enough prairie for you yet? Plant cup plants. A thirsty chickadee might come to drink from a tiny leaf pool.

The beautiful Illustrations made from woodblock prints captures the wide-open feel of the prairie. There is a lot of back matter that includes an author's note, instructions on how to plant a pocket prairie, a list of animals and plants that inhabit a prairie, and other helpful resources.


Because I love promoting nonfiction as a way to round out the reading experience, I would hand Plant a Pocket of Prairie, along with The Prairie Builders: reconstructing America's lost grasslands written by Sneed B. Collard III to fans of Little House in the Prairie series by Laura Ingalls Wilder and Sarah, Plain and Tall by Patricia MacLachlan. Try these titles too: Ellse's Bird by Jane Yolen, and for just fun, Out on the Prairie by Donna M. Bateman.

Friday, June 6, 2014

The Boston Globe-Horn Book Awards

The 2014 Boston Globe-Horn Book Awards were announced last week in New York. The awards are divided into three categories: fiction, nonfiction, and picture books. Three books were recognized in the nonfiction category, and we have reviewed all three titles on The Nonfiction Detectives blog this year. Click here to view the entire list of winners.


Nonfiction Winner



Nonfiction Honor Winners





If you're in New England in October, you may want to attend the awards ceremony at Simmons College in Boston. Click here for more details.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Common Core IRL: Colonies and the American Revolution

In the latest installment of Common Core IRL: In Real Libraries, we focus our attention on books about  Colonial America and the Revolutionary War. 

Be sure to visit the following blogs this week to read all of the reviews.

 Great Kid Books: Life in Colonial America (gr. 3-5)

 Kid Lit Frenzy: Primary Sources (gr. 4-6)

 The Show Me Librarian: Historical Fiction (gr. 1-6)

Great Kid Books: Digital Resources (gr. 4-6)

George vs. George: The American Revolution As Seen from Both Sides  
by Rosalyn Schanzer
National Geographic, 2004.
60 pages
ISBN: 0792273494
Grades 5-6

Upper elementary classes usually study Colonial America and the American Revolution. Many books about the American Revolution are written from the point of view of the patriots who were upset with taxes and the way Great Britain governed the colonies. However, George vs. George is a more balanced look at the events leading up to the American Revolution and the consequences of the war. By writing from different points of view, Schanzer gives children a more accurate view of complex historical events.

The narrative writing style and picture book format of George vs. George make it a text that could be read aloud or used as an independent reading book in social studies classes. The lengthy bibliography and source notes might lead readers to other sources for further reading and research including a study of primary vs. secondary sources.


Classroom Connections:

R.I. 5.6 Analyze multiple accounts of the same events or topic, noting similarities and differences in the point of view they represent. 

Rosalyn Schanzer provides readers with two different points of view: one from George Washington and the rebels and the other from King George. George vs. George outlines the events leading up to the war while offering a balanced view of these events. Readers could compare and contrast the lives and motivations of King George to George Washington in a written assignment or in an oral presentation or speech. Readers might also identify how each side reacted to events and battles and use evidence from the text to explain why this was the reaction. For example, after Washington's troops defeated the British at Saratoga, "King George tried so hard to make merry in public that he embarrassed all his friends" (p.43).

R.I. 5.1 Determine two or more main ideas of a text and explain how they are supported by key details; summarize the text.

The book is organized into chapters that progress chronologically. Readers could identify the main ideas from each chapter using evidence from the text to support their thinking. Schanzer's folk art style illustrations painted on a textured canvas incorporate cartoon elements including speech balloons with actual quotes from historical figures. These quotes connect directly to the events on each page and may help readers interpret how different sides of the conflict viewed the events.


R.I. 5.3 Explain the relationships or interactions between two or more individuals, events, ideas, or concepts in a historical, scientific, or technical text based on specific information in the text.

Readers may explain the relationship between the British government to the government of the American Colonies based on the information on pages 16-17. Students could create their own graphic organizers comparing the government of England to the government of the American Colonies. Students could also explain the relationship between the Sugar Act & Stamp Act, the Boston Tea Party, and the closing of Boston Harbor. Some sections of the book provide readers with opportunities to compare and contrast, such as the equipment, size and tactics of British troops vs. Rebel troops.

Schanzer packs a lot of information into the pages of this informational picture book that will help readers see the American Revolution from different perspectives. By sharing texts that examine historical events from different points of view, we help our children become critical thinkers and consumers of information.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Women Heroes of World War I & Reporting Under Fire

Women Heroes of World War 1: 16 remarkable resisters, soldiers, spies, and medics 
by Kathryn J. Atwood
Women in Action series
Chicago Review Press. 2014
ISBN: 9781613746868
 -- and
Reporting Under Fire: 16 daring women war correspondents and photojournalists
by Kerrie Logan Hollihan
Women in Action series
Chicago Review Press. 2014
ISBN: 9781613747100
Grades 8 and up
This reviewer used copies that were sent by the publisher.

We all know war is dangerous. Not only for the soldiers doing the fighting, but also for those who go underground to work as spies or resistance fighters to being on the front lines as a reporter. Though I have only seen these two entries in the Women in Action series, I was impressed with how well the books cover the topics in an engaging writing style that immediately draws readers in.

Using dialogue, direct quotes, document and diary experts, Women Heroes of World War I tells the true stories of 16 women from around the world who served their countries during their time of war. The book is divided into four sections: Resisters and Spies, Medical Personnel, Soldiers, and Journalists. At the beginning for each section, Atwood includes historical background information that gives readers a full understanding of what was happening at the time. Though most names will be unfamiliar to many, they were to me -- Edith Cavell, Marthe Cnockaert, Louise de Bettignies, Flora Sandes -- I did recognize American mystery writer Mary Roberts Rinehart. The fast-paced narratives recounts the suspense-filled stories of these exceptional women, many who would be caught and executed, fighting for freedom. 

Reporting Under Fire is similar in format as it recounts the remarkable exploits of 16 women who risked their lives to bring back the scoops from the front lines. The book is divided into six sections: World War I, 1914-1918; Between World Wars, 1920-1939; A Second World War, 1939-1945; A Cold War, 1945-1989; Ancient Peoples, Modern Wars, 1955-1985; A Challenge That Never Ends, 1990-Present. Some of the women included are Henrietta Goodnough, aka Peggy Hull, Louise Bryant(her time with husband John Reed is the story of the film, Reds), Dorothy Thompson, Janine di Giovanni, Robin Wright, and Martha Raddatz. Also, Martha Gellhorn, considered one of the greatest war correspondents of the 20th century, and photographer Margaret Bourke-White.  

Hollihan's narrative is exciting and sheds light on not only the dangers these women faced, but their struggles to be accepted in a field historically dominated by men. 

Back matter for these books include maps, historical black & white photographs, epilogue, glossary, notes, sidebars, bibliography, and index.

Each of the women portrayed in these books were as different as they could be. Some might have been more clever or more gifted in their field, yet their commitment to their ideals is inspiring. Their stories are worth reading, both for they role in our history, and for the opportunities they made possible for the next generation of adventurous young women.