Two intrepid librarians

Two intrepid librarians review the best nonfiction books for children

Monday, May 16, 2016

Bubonic Panic: Blog Tour and Giveaway

Bubonic Panic: When Plague Invaded America 
by Gail Jarrow
Calkins Creek, 2016
Grades 5 and up

Today I'm pleased to kick off the Bubonic Panic blog tour!

Gail Jarrow rounds out her "Deadly Diseases" trilogy with a riveting account of how the plague came to the United States at the turn of the century. Using the perfect blend of history and science, Jarrow provides readers with an overview of how the plague spread through parts of Asia and Europe in the middle ages during the First and Second Pandemics. The story then shifts to San Fransisco where residents of Chinatown were dying from a mysterious disease that caused fever, aches, vomiting and buboes (swelling of the lymph nodes) between 1900-1908.

Jarrow takes readers into the field as bacteriologists and health officials work to stop the spread of the bubonic plague despite the attempts of San Fransisco business owners and politicians to downplay and cover up the epidemic. Middle grade and teen readers will be amazed to learn how long it took for officials to focus on rats and fleas as the cause of the plague. Jarrow also describes the racism that residents of Chinatown faced as they were forced to be quarantined during the pandemic.

The design of the book is excellent. Primary documents, illustrations and photographs give readers a sense of how serious the outbreak was in the U.S. without disrupting the flow of the narrative. A considerable amount of research went into writing the story, which is rich in the use of quotes and details that paint a vivid picture for readers. A five-page bibliography lists the many resources the author used. Jarrow also consulted with a doctor from the Centers for Disease Control and experts in the fields of entomology and pest management. Some readers will be surprised to learn that rodents such as squirrels still carry the plague and infect 1,000 to 4,000 people each year.

Bubonic Panic is an exciting nonfiction story that tweens and teens won't be able to put down. It could be used as a text for a disease unit in a middle school science class or pair Bubonic Panic with the middle grade novel, Chasing Secrets by Gennifer Choldenko. You can read more about Gail Jarrow's "Deadly Diseases" trilogy on the Teachingbooks.net site.

Be sure to visit these other stops on the Bubonic Panic blog tour.

Tuesday, May 17
Kidlit Frenzy
www.kidlitfrenzy.com

Wednesday, May 18
Unleashing Readers
www.unleashingreaders.com

Thursday, May 19
Teach Mentor Texts
www.teachmentortexts.com

Friday, May 20
Sally's Bookshelf
www.sallysbookshelf.blogspot.com


Bubonic Panic Giveaway

One winner will receive a copy of Bubonic Panic. 

Click here for the entry form or enter below.

Giveaway Rules
Complete the form below to enter.
One entry per person.
You must be 13 years or older to enter.
Entries will be accepted until 11:59 p.m. EST on May 20, 2016.
(U.S. addresses only)


The reviewer received a review copy of the book to write this review.


Monday, May 9, 2016

Dorothea's Eyes

Dorothea's Eyes: Dorothea Lange Photographs the Truth
by Barb Rosenstock
illustrated by Gerard DuBois
Calkins Creek, 2016
Grades 2-5

The students and teachers at my elementary school are big fans of Barb Rosenstock. Rosenstock's historical fiction picture book, The Camping Trip That Changed America, is read aloud to 4th grade students to kick off a social studies unit on National Parks. Students and teachers also enjoy her picture book biographies such as The Streak, Thomas Jefferson Builds a Library and The Noisy Paint Box.

Rosenstock's latest picture book biography introduces children to the photographer, Dorothea Lange. Written in the present tense and a narrative style, readers will feel like they are they with Lange as she observes people and places around her. Even as a child she intently watched people around her.

"Dorothea pretends she's invisible all the time.  Her eyes work better that way."

The story follows the young Lange who became interested in photography and traveled to San Francisco where she set up a studio. The author succeeds in showing readers the importance of Lange's photographs during the Great Depression. Lange brought attention to issues of homelessness, hunger and poverty in our country. Acrylic and digital illustrations in dark, muted colors to reflect a somber mood as Lange photographs people living in poverty.

"Fathers stoop in fields, working for pennies. Mothers nurse sick children, lying thirsty in makeshift tents. Whole families live in jalopies-"

Six of Lange's photographs are featured in the back of the book and will spark discussions for young readers about the power of photographs and art. An expensive timeline is helpful in providing information for readers who wish to learn more about the artist and her impact on society. Pair Dorothea's Eyes with Migrant Mother: How a Photograph Defined the Great Depression. Give Dorothea's Eyes to students looking for interesting biographies for school assignments. It would also serve as an excellent read aloud for social studies classes across grade levels or for art classes studying photography.

Visit the author's website to learn more about the book and to access an educator's guide.


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

Friday, April 29, 2016

In the Fields and the Trenches

In the Fields and the Trenches: The Famous and the Forgotten on the Battlefields of World War I 
by Kerrie Logan Hollihan
Chicago Review Press, 2016
Grades 7-12

When I first picked up In the Fields and the Trenches, I excepted a traditional World War I history book for kids. I definitely underestimated this title. Hooligan provides exciting glimpses into the lives of successful (and sometimes famous) young people who enlisted in the service or provided support to troops during the Great War.

After a brief overview of events that led up to World War I, Hoolihan publishes an extensive timeline in the front of the book. This makes so much sense and will prove useful to teen readers with limited knowledge about the Great War. The book is organized into twelve chapters and introduces readers to 18 amazing young adults who made sacrifices, offered their services, and were involved in combat. Photographs are thoughtfully placed throughout the chapters. Some photos are posed, but there are several candid pictures from battlefields.

The book effectively conveys the important roles played by young people in the war. Many of the subjects in the book had successful careers, were accomplished in school, or came from famous families before becoming involved in World War I. Katherine Stinson was a "premier pilot" and stunt aviator before she taught the US Aero Squadron how to use aerial maneuvers to "dodge enemy bullets." Henry Lincoln Johnson worked as a porter at US Central Station in Albany before enlisting with the 15th Regiment of New York. The book also describes how Ernest Hemingway, J.R.R. Tolkien, Harry Truman, Irene Curie, and the children of President Theodore Roosevelt flew planes, delivered messages to troops, drove ambulances, worked in field hospitals and more.

The book goes in-depth just enough to provide readers with interesting details about the lives and sacrifices of the subjects, yet the chapters are the perfect length (10-22 pages). The Epilogue ties the stories together with the poem, "In Flanders Field." In Fields and Trenches is a fitting tribute to the many individuals to risked (and sometimes gave) their lives in the Great War. It would be an excellent book to read in high school World History classes. Give the book to teens who are interested in history and biographies.


Friday, April 22, 2016

Animal Bites- New Animal Planet Series

Ocean Animals (Animal Bites series)
by Laaren Brown
Liberty Street, an imprint of Time Inc. Books, 2016
Grades K-5

Polar Animals (Animal Bites series)
by Laaren Brown
Liberty Street, an imprint of Time Inc. Books, 2016
Grades K-5

Today is Earth Day, and it's the perfect time to highlight the new Animal Bites series by Animal Planet. Published by Time Inc., the series was released earlier this year and is inspired by the Animal Bites blog.

There are currently two titles in the Animal Bites series: Ocean Animals and Polar Animals. Upon opening the books, readers will immediately notice the stunning photography. High-resolution, bright photographs capture animals in their natural habitats: a whale shark with mouth wide open, a dolphin eating a squid, and a puffin flying over a humpback whale.

The information is broken into manageable chunks and the text is printed in a large font making the series accessible to young readers. Captions, sidebars (Info Bites) and labels provide readers with interesting facts about the various animals. Maps, charts and diagrams also help convey information about the animals and their habitats, diet, and physical characteristics. The books in the Animal Bites series are ideal for children who love reading about animals and for readers who enjoy survey-style books that provide quick facts about a many topics.

Portions of the proceeds from book sales will benefit R.O.A.R. (Reach Out. Act. Respond.) a fund from Animal Planet that helps make the world a better place for animals.

The reviewer received copies of the books from the publisher.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Pogo: A New Imprint from Jump!

 Jump! has been publishing nonfiction for children since 2012. The publisher known for Bullfrog Books for PreK-2 readers, has a new imprint released this year. Pogo features science books for grades 2-5.

Books released under the Pogo imprint cover life science, earth science, physical science, and engineering/technology. Each book incorporates a variety of text features including sidebars, colorful photos, a glossary and index. The expository text is accessible to elementary readers, and new concepts are reinforced with diagrams and infographics. Activities and experiments related to the science concepts can be found in the back of the book. Teachers and librarians will appreciate the sturdy library binding. E-book versions are also available for schools that need multiple copies for classroom use.

The design of the book including colorful pages, close-up photos and interesting sidebars are sure to get young readers excited about science.

Visit the publisher's website to see all of the Pogo titles.

Monday, April 11, 2016

A Girl Called Vincent

A Girl Called Vincent: The Life of Poet Edna St. Vincent Millay 
by Krystyna Poray Goddu
Chicago Review Press, 2016
ISBN: 978-1-61373-172-7
Grades 5 and up

April is Poetry Month, so it's fitting that A Girl Called Vincent was released earlier this month. The biography provides middle grade and teen readers with an in-depth look at the life of Edna St. Vincent Millay, who was known to her friends and family as Vincent.

Millay grew up on the coast of Maine in the towns of Camden and Rockport. When her parents divorced, Millay was forced to take over the household duties while her mother worked long hours as a nurse. Despite her many responsibilities at home, Millay found time to write and publish dozens of poems while attending high school. Throughout her life, Millay faced adversity including being estranged from her father, being mocked by her male classmates and losing a national poetry competition because she was female. Goddu shows readers how Millay persevered and took advantage of opportunities to better herself including accepting an offer to attend Vassar. Millay went on to become the first female to receive the Pulitzer Prize for poetry.

The book makes is clear that Millay's admiration of nature and the beauty of Maine greatly influenced her work. Black and white photographs of Millay give readers a sense of what life was like for the gifted writer. Gouda's thorough research is evident as she uses numerous quotes and poems by Millay to paint a vivid picture for readers. Give A Girl Called Vincent to middle school and high school students looking for an interesting biography. The book is packed with enough information to satisfy students doing in-depth research on the poet's life.

Visit the author's website for more information about the book and the work of Edna St. Vincent Millay.

An excerpt from Millay's poem "Renascence" can be seen on top of  Mt. Battie in Camden Hills State Park in Maine.



Photo credit: Casteel, David. "100_6119.jpg" 1 September 2005. Online. Flickr Creative Commons. 10 April 2016.  

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


Monday, April 4, 2016

The Story of Seeds

The Story of Seeds: From Mendel's Garden to Your Plate, and How There's More of Less to Eat Around the World
by Nancy F. Castaldo
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016
ISBN: 978-0-544-32023-9
Grades 6-12

Nancy Castaldo, author of Sniffer Dogs: How Dogs (and Their Noses) Save the World, has turned her attention to the topic of seeds. In her new nonfiction book for tweens and teens, Castaldo writes about the importance of seed diversity and health. You might wonder why an author would devote an entire book to seeds. In chapter one, the Castaldo explains that seeds are in danger. "Our diversity is shrinking fast. The world's seed are in crisis." We should pay attention because, "Seeds equal life."

The book begins with a history of Gregor Mendel and his experiments with pea plants and dominant traits before moving on to Luther Burbank, who experimented with crossing different varieties of plants. History buffs will be interested in the chapters describing how people saved seeds in times of war to ensure there would be food once the war was over. Several chapters are devoted to the thesis that diversity in seeds is essential to life. Castaldo uses the potato famine in Ireland as a prime example of what can happen when "monoculture" is practiced.

Seed banks also play a vital role in saving the world's crops. The book features seed banks in Russian, Norway and the United States. Teens who have heard about GMOs in the news will appreciate the clear and thoughtful way the book explains how GMOs have negatively impacted crops in places like India where farmers are forced to purchase expensive cotton seeds from Monsanto. Castaldo explains the difference between the natural process of hybridization and genetic modification that occurs in a laboratory. The book also introduces readers to scientists and activists from the past and present who are working to ensure the preservation of seeds from around the world.

The design of the book is ideal, including the small trim size, glossy pages, colorful photos and sidebars placed at the ends of chapters. Important vocabulary words are highlighted and defined throughout the book.  The final chapter persuades readers to take action by swapping seeds, shopping at farmers' markets, and planting their own gardens. Back matter includes a list of seed libraries by state, a glossary and a list additional books and videos on the topic.

Pair The Story of Seeds with Black Potatoes: The Story of the Great Irish Potato Famine by Susan Campbell Bartoletti and The Omnivore's Dilemma: The Secrets Behind What You Eat by Michael Pollan. The Story of Seeds is recommended for high school science classes or for teen readers interested in learning about the world's food supply, genetics and gardening.

Visit the author's site to download a curriculum guide.



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

Monday, March 28, 2016

FROM THE BACKLIST: The Librarian Who Measured the Earth by Kathryn Lasky

The Librarian Who Measured the Earth
Written by Kathryn Lasky; Illustrated by Kevin Hawkes
Little, Brown and Company. 1994
ISBN: 0316515264
I am on a crusade to get some really terrific and often overlooked informational picture books into the hands of teachers and parents. These books, read aloud to middle and high school students, could be a gateway for important conversations and growth. 
All ages

More than two thousand years ago, Eratosthenes (AIR-uh-TOS-thuh-neez) lived in the great city of Alexandria. Though he wrote many, many books on a wide range of topics, Eratosthenes is known for his accomplishment of measuring the circumference of the earth. Using camels and plumb lines, he used the angle of shadows to come up with his number that was off by only 200 miles. Quite an amazing achievement without the help of modern technology. 

In her author’s note, Lasky explains that though Eratosthenes gave us many volumes of work, he left behind no personal documents, no diaries, no birth records. Consequently, this spirited narrative is a blend of speculation on what Eratosthenes might have been like growing up, the questions he could have asked, mixed with details about life in Greece at that time.

Some of the questions Lasky imagines: 
How far away is the sun?
Where does the wind come from?
How much of earth is land?
How high is the highest mountain?
How big around was earth?

The story is enhanced by the illustrations, rendered in acrylics, by Kevin Hawkes. Hawkes double page paintings appropriately add a twist of humor to Lasky’s offering of life in Ancient Greece.

Who was Eratosthenes? He was born in 276 BC in Cyrene, a Greek city on the coast of Africa in the country that is now called Libya. He was a man of learning, a lover of lists, was particularly drawn to mathematics and geography. Eratosthenes worked as chief librarian at the Library of Alexandria; his employer was King Ptolemy. 

Back matter includes an afterword, bibliographies both from Lasky and Hawkes.

The Librarian Who Measured the Earth is a book to share with students to show the amazing accomplishments that are waiting to be discovered, and questions waiting to be answered by those possessing a curious mind. A perfect companion for those interested in learning more about mathematicians, scientists, and Ancient Greece.

I borrowed this book from my local public library.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Fearless Flyer: Ruth Law and Her Flying Machine

Fearless Flyer: Ruth Law and Her Flying Machine  
by Heather Lang
illustrated by Raul Colon
Calkins Creek, 2016
ISBN: 978-1-62091-650-6
Grades 2-6

Heather Lang and Raul Colon have collaborated to share the exciting story of Ruth Law in the picture book biography, Fearless Flyer. Before Amelia Earhart won the hearts of Americans with her aviation accomplishments, Ruth Law was flying "daredevil tricks" and aiming to do what no other aviator had done before: fly nonstop from Chicago to New York. Instead of spending pages describing Law's childhood and how she became interested in flying, this story jumps right into the action on page one by introducing Law's goal of breaking flying records.

"She made up her mind to fly from Chicago to New York City. When Ruth Law made up her mind, there was no use trying to stop her."

Readers will be amazed by the work Ruth had to do to prepare for the trip including adding three gas tanks to her plane and cutting up maps and attaching them to rollers. Lang effectively embeds quotes from Law into the narrative. The excitement and tension builds as Law encounters problems during the record-breaking flight including high winds, thick fog and running low on gas. Raul Colon's pencil and lithograph illustrations in yellow and blue hues let readers know they are reading a book about the past.

Back matter includes photos and more information about Law including the surprising fact that Orville Wright refused to teach her to fly. Pair Fearless Flyer with Talkin' About Bessie by Nikki Grimes, Soar, Elinor! by Tami Lewis Brown or Daredevil: The Daring Life of Betty Skelton by Meghan McCarthy.



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

Monday, March 21, 2016

FROM THE BACKLIST: Bodies from the Ash by James M. Deem

Bodies from the Ash: Life and Death in Ancient Rome 
By James M. Deem
Houghton Mifflin Co. 2005
ISBN: 0618473084
I am on a crusade to get some really terrific and often overlooked informational picture books into the hands of teachers and parents. These books, read aloud to middle and high school students, could be a gateway for important conversations and growth. 

Grades 2-12

In Vacation Under the Volcano, Book 13 in the Magic Tree House series, Morgan Le Fay sends Jack and Annie to Pompeii. Their assignment: rescue a special book, Vir Fortissimus in Mundo (The Strongest Man in the World). As they spin back in time to the Roman Empire, the two Master Librarians are unaware that within minutes of their arrival one of the worst natural disasters in history will happen. Around one o'clock in the afternoon, on August 24, AD 79., Mount Vesuvius in Italy erupted, burying the city of Pompeii in pumice and ash.

To learn more about Pompeii and the volcano, I turned to Bodies from the Ash, an exciting narrative about the eruption, the excavation centuries later of Pompeii, and the story of the plaster bodies.

Just what were plaster bodies? The technique of pouring plaster into hollow cavities left behind by the decaying bodies. First used in 1863 by excavator Giuseppe Fiorelli, the cavities were caused when volcanic matter surrounded a body and hardened as it cooled. A body would decay inside the hardened deposit, leaving behind a hollowed space and a skeleton where a body once lain. Over time, these mummy-like plastic people have offered visitors a glimpse of life during the Roman Empire. 

The text is complemented by numerous black & white photos that are well captioned. Back matter includes bibliography and index. 

Deem's (Bodies from the Bog) lifelong interest in Pompeii led him to write this well-researched narrative nonfiction. Share it will those curious about Roman history or books about volcanoes. Eruption by Elizabeth Rusch and Inside Volcanoes by Melissa Stewart

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



Monday, March 14, 2016

FROM THE BACKLIST: If the World Were a Village by David J. Smith


If the World were a Village: a book about World’s People
Book 1 in the CitizenKid series
Written by David J. Smith; Illustrated by Shelagh Armstrong
Kids Can Press. 2nd edition. 2011
ISBN: 9781554535958
I am on a crusade to get some really terrific and often overlooked informational picture books into the hands of teachers and parents. These books, read aloud to middle and high school students, could be a gateway for important conversations and growth. 


World-mindedness is an attitude, and an approach to life. It is a sense that our planet is actually a village, and we share this small, precious village with our neighbors. Smith believes that by having a map of the world in our heads, knowing who are our neighbors, where they live and how they live, is a positive first step to living in peace.

Using the 2002 edition (the book was updated in 2011) Smith asks readers to imagine our planet, with a population of over 6 billion, 200 million (6,200,000,000), as a village made up of 100 people. He then breaks down the village into several topics: nationalities, languages, ages, religions, food, air and water, schooling and literacy, money and possessions, and electricity. The brief text hugs a double-page illustration that relates some very sobering statistics.  For example, Air and Water, we learn that 75 people have access to a source of safe water, while the other 25 must spend a large part of each day simple getting safe water. 
According to Smith, our village in 1900, had a population of 32 people and will increase to nearly 200 in 2050 if the population continues to increase at a rate of 1.6 per year. 

An author’s note offers many useful tips for teachers and parents on how to incorporate world-mindfulness in your every day conversation with children.

A thought-provoking book. A great addition to any social studies class.

Other books by Smith include, If America were a Village, This Child  Every Child, and I: A Mind-Bending New Way of Looking At Big Ideas and Numbers.

Go here to learn more about Smith and his world-mindedness project.
Click here to listen to Smith talk about how he came up with the idea for his series of books. 

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

Thursday, March 10, 2016

The Secret Subway

The Secret Subway 
by Shana Corey
illustrated by Red Nose Studios
Schwartz & Wade, 2016
ISBN: 978-0-375-87071-2
Grades K-5

In the 1860s, stagecoaches, horses, peddlers and garbage clogged the streets of New York City. Coeditor of Scientific American, Alfred Ely Beach, had an innovative solution to the city's problem: an underground train powered by a fan. Corey's engaging narrative style brings excitement to the story of New York's first subway system. Unfortunately, the underground train was grounded when politicians gave in to pressure from shopkeepers who wanted to keep shoppers above ground.

Red Nose Studio created polymer clay figures for the illustrations; their process is shown on the book's jacket. The facial expressions on the characters and the lively writing style bring the story to life and make this an ideal read aloud for all ages. Be sure to read the author's note for more information about Beach and the use of pneumatic power. A recommended purchase for school and public library collections.



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

Monday, February 29, 2016

Solving the Puzzle Under the Sea

Solving the Puzzle Under the Sea: Marie Tharp Maps the Ocean Floor
by Robert Burleigh
illustrated by Raul Colon
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2016
Grades 2-6

This unique picture book biography written in the first person tells the story of how Marie Tharp 's love of maps and background in science led her to map the ocean floor between 1957-1977.

"At last I was a young scientist, graduated from college and eager to work. But was science ready for me? In those days it wasn't easy being both a woman and a scientist."

Readers will learn about Tharp's work using measurements or "soundings" to document the depth of the ocean. Tharp went on to confirm the theory of the continental drift.

"It felt good. I knew we were changing the way people looked at the earth."

Colon's gorgeous pencil and watercolor illustrations use texture and muted earth tones. Examples of charts and graphs are included in the illustrations, which will help children understand the science behind graphing the soundings or measurements.

Pair Solving the Puzzle Under the Sea with Look Up!: The Story of the First Woman Astronomer by Burleigh and Colon. The book may also be used in STEM programming in school and public libraries.

Visit the publisher's site to see artwork from the book.

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

Monday, February 22, 2016

FROM THE BACKLIST: BREAKTHROUGH! BY Jim Murphy

Breakthrough!: How Three People Saved “Blue Babies” and Changed Medicine Forever

by Jim Murphy
Clarion Books. 2015
ISBN: 9780547821832
Grades 8-12
I was sent a copy of this book by the publisher.

On a cold day in November 1944, eighteen-month-old Eileen Saxon was brought into an operating room at Johns Hopkins Hospital. She could barely breathe, and her lips and fingertips had turned a dusky blue, the result of a heart condition known as blue baby syndrome. An unlikely trio prepared to operate. Chief Surgeon, Dr. Alfred Blalock. Dr. Helen Taussig, a world famous pediatric physican and standing on a stool was Vivien Thomas, Dr. Blalock’s research assistant. Thomas was the only person who had ever carried out the procedure successfully, on a research animal, yet most people at the hospital thought he was a janitor.

So why wasn’t he the one doing the operation? 

Born in 1910, Vivien Thomas dreamed of becoming a doctor. At age sixteen, he went to work and saved his money with the intent of attending college and go on to medical school. But before he could set foot inside a classroom, the stock market collapsed and sent the United States into the Great Depression. Thomas watched helplessly as the bank that held his tuition money closed its doors for good and his savings disappeared — along with his hopes of going to college.

Needing work, Thomas became Dr. Alfred Blalock’s research assistant, a job he would hold for over thirty years. It would be Thomas, whose perseverance had him working long hours in the lab to find the solution to many important medical conditions under Blalock’s supervision. Yet, even though he was an equal creator of the blue baby operation, Vivien Thomas was not mentioned in any lectures or articles written by Blalock or Taussig. Was he upset about that? Murphy offers some suggestions as to why Thomas was overlooked (Was it because he was African American?), but in the end this book is mostly about a remarkable, humble man who believed the work he did was what was most important.

Jim Murphy, a master at crafting compelling narrative nonfiction gives readers a peek into factors that prevented Thomas from receiving the recognition he deserved for his role in this medical breakthrough that would pave the way for heart surgery for years to come. 
He incorporates quotes from primary sources, and peppers well-captioned black & white photos that enhance the text throughout. Back matter includes source notes, bibliography, and index.


Breakthrough! is an important addition to library collections. An absorbing read.  

Friday, February 19, 2016

Reproductive Rights: Who Decides? Blog Tour


Reproductive Rights: Who Decides?
by Vicki Oransky Wittenstein
Twenty-First Century Books, 2016
ISBN: 978-1-4677-4187-3
Grades 9-12


In 2013 Louise reviewed For the Good of Mankind by Vicki Oransky Wittenstein. Today I am pleased to review Vicki's latest nonfiction book for teens, Reproductive Rights: Who Decides? 

If you have viewed any of the recent Republican or Democratic debates, you have seen the topic of reproductive rights passionately discussed by candidates. However, many teens (and adults) may not be aware of the long and controversial history of reproductive rights in our country and around the world. Vicki Oransky Wittenstein sheds light on this important topic as she weaves together a history of religious views, social opinions, medical advances, courts cases and government laws related to reproductive rights.

The book is organized chronologically beginning with the use of contraceptives in Ancient Egypt and Persia. Following chapters describe how religious beliefs (Roman Catholic and Puritan) and societal views of women influenced women's health and reproduction. Women in the U.S. in the 1800s didn't have the right to vote, and they also were limited in their choices when it came to reproduction.  Women who wished to use birth control for family planning were limited due to the lack of information on the topic, resistance from doctors, and restrictions placed on birth control by churches. Anti-obsentity laws were passed in the late 1800s making literature published about birth control practices illegal and punishable by jail. One chapter of the book describes the work of activist Margaret Sanger at the turn of the century and is followed by a chapter on how the birth control pill changed women's lives once it was approved by the FDA in 1957.

It is evident that Wittenstein spend a great deal of time researching the history of birth control and reproductive issues. The information is presented in a clear and concise manner without the author inserting her personal opinion. The book effectively explores several societal and medical issues such as wealthy vs. poor women and their access to birth control and healthcare. Black and white photographs and sidebars help readers comprehend the complex topic. A lengthy bibliography, source notes, a timeline and lists of print and digital resources are located in the back of the book.

Reproductive Rights: Who Decides? is highly recommended for high school libraries and for teen collections in public libraries. The book will be an informative read for teens interested in women's health, individual rights, medical history and laws, and it could be studied in history or health classes or used by students when writing argumentative essays or debating the topic of reproductive rights and the rights of individuals.

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

Before becoming an author, VICKI ORANKSY WITTENSTEIN prosecuted criminal cases as an assistant district attorney with the Manhattan District Attorney's office. She earned an MFA in writing for children and young adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts. Vicki has written a number of science articles and books for the juvenile market, including Planet Hunter: Geoff Marcy and the Search for Other Earths, which won the 2011 Science Communication Award from the American Institute of Physics. Her book For the Good of Mankind? The Shameful History of Human Medical Experimentation was a Junior Literary Guild selection. Vicki and her husband live in Brooklyn, New York. Visit her website at vickiwittenstein.com.

Be sure to visit the other blogs on the blog tour.
Mon, Feb 15
Proseandkahn
Tues, Feb 16
The Book Monsters
Wed, Feb 17
Library Fanatic
Thurs, Feb 18
Kid Lit Frenzy
Fri, Feb 19
The Nonfiction Detectives
Sat, Feb 20
Ms. Yingling Reads
Mon, Feb 22
The Launch Pad
Tues, Feb 23
Through the Tollbooth
Wed, Feb 24
Unleashing Readers
Thurs, Feb 25
The Pirate Tree
Fri, Feb 26
Teach Mentor Texts

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Elizabeth Started All the Trouble

Elizabeth Started All the TROUBLE 
by Doreen Rappaport
illustrated by Matt Faulkner
Disney Hyperion, 2016
Grades 2-8

Elizabeth Started All the TROUBLE... That's Elizabeth Cady Stanton, of course. Author, Doreen Rappaport, and illustrator, Matt Faulkner, have teamed up to create a comprehensive look at the history of the women's right movement in the U.S.. There have been several picture books biographies published about specific women who fought for women's rights including Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony and Amelia Bloomer. What makes this book unique is that it is a look at the history of the suffrage movement and the many women who fought for the right to vote.

The book begins with Abigail Adams advocating for women to have equal rights and ends with the passage of the 19th Amendment in 1920. Along the way, young readers will learn about the work of Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott, and Sojourner Truth at Seneca Falls. Rappaport writes in an engaging narrative style that fits well with Faulkner's illustrations. Faulkner captures the personalities of the subjects. The use of speech bubbles and caricatures of historical figures help to soften the heavy topic for young readers.  Information is also cleverly conveyed in newspapers and signs found in the illustrations. In just 40 pages, readers will gain a solid overview of the suffrage movement from Susan B. Anthony and suffragists of the 1800s, to women who fought in the Civil War, and Alice Paul who was jailed for picketing outside the White House.

Children and adults should be sure to take time to read the back matter that includes a list of Trailblazers,  important dates, and lists of books and websites on the suffragist movement. Elizabeth Started All the TROUBLE is a recommended purchase for schools and public libraries. It's a book that can be shared with large groups of children and would make an interesting read for young readers interested in our country's history especially in a voting year.

Visit Doreen Rappaport's website to see pages from the book and to learn more about women's history.

The reviewer received an advance copy of the book from the illustrator.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

FROM THE BACKLIST - Aaron and Alexander: the Most Famous Duel in American History by Don Brown

Aaron and Alexander: the Most Famous Duel in American History

Written and illustrated by Don Brown
Roaring Brook Press. 2015
ISBN: 9781596439986
Grades 5 - 12
I borrowed a copy of this book from my local public library.

Aaron and Alexander could have been friends. They were alike in many ways. But the ways in which they were different made them the worst of enemies.

Brown’s informational picture book, illustrated in his signature cartoon style, gives readers a brief look at what might have contributed to the animosity between Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton that would lead to the famous duel. 

We learn that both men lost their families at a young age, were highly intelligent, brave, and fought in the Revolutionary War. 

After the war, Aaron and Alexander became successful lawyers in New York City. They sometimes worked together, including successfully defending a man against sensational murder chargers. They shared meals. They shared friends. “Good terms,” said Alexander of his and Aaron’s connection.

What led up to the duel was their clash over politics. The two men were in opposing political camps. Hamilton felt strongly that Burr would be a terrible leader and said so publicly. In his author’s note, Brown explains that Hamilton had a huge influence on American history. He was involved in the writing of the Constitution, authored 51 of the 89 essays in the Federalists Papers published in 1788, and became our first secretary of the treasury under George Washington. Hamilton’s contributions to American history were many, Burr was an inconsequential senator and vice president.

In Aaron and Alexander, the marriage of text, illustrations, and the author’s note makes this an excellent book to share with students. It is an engaging introduction to American history. 

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Glow by W.H. Beck

Glow: Animals with Their Own Night Lights 
by W.H. Beck
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016
Grades K-5

Children will be instantly attracted to the close-up photographs of unusual creatures contrasted on black backgrounds in Glow, a nonfiction picture book featuring bioluminescent animals such as lanternfish, atolla jellyfish, vampire fish and the glowing sucker octopus. Beck explains on the first page that "bioluminescence is when living things make their own light" or glow. The book then provides readers with the different ways animals use bioluminescence to hide, attract others, hunt and call for help.

The hybrid nonfiction text blends narrative and expository styles. The narrative is printed in a large font and uses a controlled vocabulary making the text accessible to young readers. Expository captions use science terms and a more complex vocabulary to provide readers with additional information making this a book that will appeal to both young children (gr. K-2) and older readers (gr. 3-5).

Glow would work as a nonfiction read aloud in story times or science classes, and it is certain to inspire children to learn more about the animals described in the book.

Visit W.H. Beck's site to learn more about Glow.

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

Monday, January 25, 2016

Two Friends: Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass

Two Friends: Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass  
by Dean Robbins
illustrated by Sean Qualls and Selina Alko
Orchard Books/ Scholastic, 2016
ISBN: 978-0-545-39996-8
Grades K-5

I attended a Scholastic 2016 picture book preview earlier this month where I had the honor of hearing Selina Alko and Sean Qualls describe their collaboration on the illustrations for Two Friends. Below is a photograph of original artwork from the book.


Two Friends is an beautiful, informational picture book about Frederick Douglass and Susan B. Anthony. The story begins with Douglass and Anthony enjoying tea together in Anthony's parlor. The narrative then flashes back and describes Anthony's early life and how she "taught herself to give speeches" in support of women's rights. The story shifts to Douglass' early life as a slave when he "secretly learned to read and write." Douglass also gave speeches and used his gift for words to speak in support of African American rights. The story concludes in Anthony's parlor with the friends having tea as they share their plans, their speeches and their ideas for changing the world.

Alko and Qualls explain in an illustrators' note that they researched the time period, especially the clothing, when they created the acrylic paint, collage and colored pencil illustrations. Words permeate the illustrations, escaping in the steam from the tea, printed on Anthony's bloomers, and flowing through the air as Douglass speaks. The colors, textures and patterns will make readers want to linger on each page.

One of the many strengths of the book is that it works for very young readers as an introduction to two important figures from American history, and it's effective for older students learning about civil rights and the power of words.

Be sure to read the author's note from Dean Robbins in the back of the book.  A bibliography provides readers with more books on the topic. Two Friends would make an excellent read aloud for small or large groups and is a recommended purchase for school and public library collections.

Don't miss other books by the illustrators:
The Case for Loving by Selina Alko and Sean Qualls
Emmanuel's Dream written by Laurie Ann Thompson and illustrated by Sean Qualls

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

Monday, January 18, 2016

From the Backlist: An Eye for Color

An Eye for Color: the Story of Josef Albers
by Natasha Wing; Art by Julia Breckenreid
Henry Holt. 2009
ISBN: 9780805080728
Grades 2-12

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

A few weeks ago, back in December 2015, I came up with an idea for an art program for the teen summer reading program: an exercise in color from the book, Local Color by Mimi Robinson. Robinson based her idea on the works of Josef Albers, a German artist who spend years studying how the mood of a painting changed based on color combinations. I read the library’s copy of An Eye for Color to learn a little bit more about the life of Albers. So, I was totally blown away when, while in Boston (January 8-11, 2016) for ALA’s Midwinter meeting my friend Madeline and I snuck away from the excitement to visit the Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA). To my utter astonishment the exhibit at the ICA was on Black Mountain College (1938-1957) where Josef Albers taught from 1933-1949! On display were some of his work! I was so inspired and excited that I I couldn’t stop talking. (Poor Madeline).

I love it when that happens! 

An Eye for Color is a fantastic picture book biography about the life of Josef Albers. Born in Germany in 1888, Albers saw art in the simplest things. He would start out being a primary school teacher, an art teacher, and then in 1920 Albers attended the German art school, Bauhaus. The Bauhaus philosophy was that art, technology, and business should be brought together to apply good design to industrial objects, such as buildings and furniture.

In 1933, with the rise of Nazi Germany, Albers was asked to teach at the Black Mountain College located in Asheville, North Carolina. Albers would teach at the experimental college until 1949 when he was made head of the design department at Yale University. 

It was while teaching at Yale that Albers started his study of color. Wing’s simple text is partnered with Breckenreid’s illustrations that gives readers the visual elements to fully understand Albers’ work with color. 

Wing offers an author’s note that reveals Albers was her neighbor while growing up. Unaware of his fame, the young Wing eagerly shared her school art projects with the world famous artist. It would be as an adult that Wing realized the magnitude of the influence the kindly gentleman wearing a long overcoat and a beret had on the world of art. 

Back matter, besides the author's notes, include a glossary of basic color theory, bibliography, and a see for yourself activities that would be perfect to do with a classroom or by yourself. 

This book can be read as a simple story about an interesting man who loved color or if reading to an older audience, read the author’s note first. It will greatly enhance the readers understanding of Josef Albers and his work.


A thoroughly engaging and inspiring picture book biography.