Two intrepid librarians

Two intrepid librarians review the best nonfiction books for children

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Little People, BIG DREAMS series

Little People, BIG DREAMS
A series published by Frances Lincoln Children’s Books.

For all ages

These picture book biographies are terrific introductions to people, both men and women, who made a difference. The emphasis of the series is to show that though some people grow up to do incredible things, they all started out as children with a dream.

The titles I read were about the Russian dancer, Rudolf Nureyev, one of the greatest dancers in the world, British mystery writer, Agatha Christie, creator of the characters Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot, and Italian educator, Maria Montessori, whose legacy continues today in Montessori schools around the world.

“Quirky illustrations” perfectly partner with the simple, yet rich text.
The books are written and illustrated by different authors/artists.

Though lacking a bibliography or further reading, each book does contain extra facts about the subject at the end.  

A great way to introduce interesting people, from scientists, dancers, and designers to artists to
students of all ages.

To write these reviews, I borrowed the books from my local public library.

Go here to see all the titles in the series. 

Monday, November 11, 2019

Follow Your Stuff: Who Makes It, Where Does It Come From, How Does It Get To You? By Kevin Sylvester and Michael Hlinka

Follow Your Stuff: Who Makes It, Where Does It Come From, How Does It Get To You?
By Kevin Sylvester and Michael Hlinka
annick press. 2019
Grades 5 and up

In simple language and lots of graphics, Follow Your Stuff  wants readers to know the "chain of connections" between the item we purchase and how that item was manufactured. They hope, armed with this knowledge, consumers will think before they purchase.

Would you still buy that new smartphone if you knew that one of the ingredients, coltan, is often dug by hand in The Democratic Republic of Congo? And, that since the mining industry is not well regulated, coltan might be extracted from national parks, forests, and animal sanctuaries? That the sale of coltan may purchase weapons that are used in The Democratic Republic of Congo’s decade’s long war?

The book follows the chain of connection with a t-shirt, medicines, books, high tech computers and smart phones, and glasses. The author’s explain that each stage of the before and after of the production of everything is connected to millions of people around the globe.  

For example, you may say you’ve made a cake from scratch, but in reality, “Someone else grew the wheat. Someone else harvested the sugarcane, and other people turned that into the sugar you used. Same thing for the flour, the milk, the icing, the food coloring, the chocolate, the candles, the…you get the idea.”

As the author's lay it all out, what readers will understand is that the deeper you look, the more you realize that almost EVERYONE who does a job is somehow related to that shirt.”

Cartoon-like graphics are throughout, as are sidebars with more information.Speech bubbles throughout pose questions to make us think a little deeper about where our goods come from and how they are made.

When sharing this book with students, emphasize how interconnected we all are here on Earth. The question that is important for all of us to ask, “Do I really need that new sweater, iPhone or computer game?” By understanding our inter-connectivity to the people in that global chain of connections who make the product may help young consumers when making their next purchase.

To write this review, I borrowed a copy of the book from my local public library.

Thursday, October 31, 2019

The Poison Eaters

The Poison Eaters by Gail JarrowThe Poison Eaters: Fighting Danger and Fraud in Our Food and Drugs
by Gail Jarrow
Calkins Creek, 2019
Grades 6 and up

Gail Jarrow is the master of blending science, history and government policy into a fascinating nonfiction read for tweens and teens. Her past books have covered topics such as typhoid fever, the bubonic plague and pellagra. In The Poison Eaters, Jarrow paints a vivid picture of what life was like for ordinary Americans before the government passed food safety laws and established the Food and Drug Administration. Can you imagine a time when corporations put lead, cocaine, arsenic and morphine in our food and health products? The book places the spotlight on the mavericks and mud rakers, such as Harvey Wiley, who stood up to big businesses and the government to protect the health and safety of our citizens. Readers will learn about how the Food and Drug Administration was formed and which presidents supported and opposed regulating the food industry. In addition to food safety, the book examines beauty products, medications and home remedies from the turn of the 20th century to present day.

This text is written in an intriguing, narrative style accompanied by many primary sources including advertisements, photographs and newspaper articles. The book gets its title from a controversial study that was performed on healthy, male subjects who were served a daily dose of boric acid in their meals. Wiley used the study to prove that boric acid was not safe for human consumption; and the subjects of the study became known as "The Poison Eaters." As with Jarrow's other books, the story unfolds chronologically and ends with the present day allowing readers to make comparisons between past and present. Don't skip over the back matter, which includes a lengthy bibliography, source notes, timeline, and an author's note. I'm intrigued to find out what topic Jarrow will tackle next!

Other books by Gail Jarrow:
Fatal Fever
Bubonic Panic
Red Madness

Monday, October 28, 2019

Dancing Hands: How Teresa Carreño Played the Piano for President Lincoln By Margarita Engle

Dancing Hands: How Teresa Carreño Played the Piano for President Lincoln
By Margarita Engle; Illustrated by Rafael López
Atheneum Books for Young Readers. 2019

Teresa Carreño (1853-1917) was a musical prodigy. Born into a musical family in Venzuela, Teresa was composing her own music by age six. When war broke out in her country in 1862, the family relocated to the United States. “By the time the ship arrived in New York, Teresa felt lost. She was homesick. How could she ever play happy songs again in this unfamiliar country where she did not know a single friend?” How? She played music.

Traveling with per Papá, Teresa grew so famous that when she was ten years old she received an invitation to play at the White House for the Lincoln family, “she could hardly believe her eyes.”  There, despite a piano badly out of tune, Teresa brought a moment of happiness to a family still reeling from the death of their child. (Lincoln’s son, William, “Willie” Wallace died February 20, 1862)

Partnering with Engle’s rich narrative are beautiful illustrations by López. Rendered in mixed media (acrylic on wood board, using sticks and other tools to paint; watercolor; construction paper; pen; and ink: and then assembled digitally, Lopez’s art is colorful and perfectly accompanies the text.

Back matter only includes a note by the author.

This vibrant, richly told picture book biography would be a perfect classroom read aloud for all ages. Especially in high school.

Teachers, informational picture books are the perfect vehicle for opening up conversations with students.

To write this review, I borrowed this book from my local public library.