Two intrepid librarians

Two intrepid librarians review the best nonfiction books for children

Monday, March 19, 2018

Brazen: Rebel Ladies Who Rocked the World by Penelope Bagieu

Brazen: Rebel Ladies Who Rocked the World
by Penelope Bagieu
First Second: 2018
ISBN: 9781626728684
Grades 5 and up

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

I am going to say right off that I loved this book. It was both a visual delight and a wealth of fascinating information about 29 feisty women, some I had heard of, and some I had not, and all they did to rock our world. French illustrator and comic artist, Bagieu came up with the idea for this book when she decided to write a story a week about a “woman who did exactly what she wanted with her life.” She states in her author’s note, “All those stories led to the book you’re reading right now.”

Each entry, about three or eight pages in length, offers a brief overview of the obstacles and victories of each woman. Bagieu includes their birth date, city/country of origin, any childhood influences, and thoughtfully explains how they overcame adversity and changed history. 

Agnodice was born in Fourth Century Athens when women are were barred from practicing medicine because they were suspected of performing abortions. “As a child, Agnodice witnessed women in her family suffer (and die) in childbirth. Instead of calling a male physician, women decided to manage the births themselves. Agnodice was outraged. Once she came of age, Agnodice studied medicine in Egypt. Upon returning to Greece, she dresses as a man and quickly became “the go-to Ob-Gyn in Athens.” Other physicians, upset by her popularity, accused Agnodice of seducing her married patience. But at her trail, to prove her innocence, Agnodice reveals that she was a woman. (In the picture it shows her holding up her toga) “Now even more outraged (and humiliated, mostly for being duped), these husbands and doctors sentence Agnodice to death for practicing medicine illegally. Coming to her rescue, a large group of angry women, many Agnodice’s patience, chastised their husbands for their verdict, telling them it was their fault for banning women from practicing medicine in the first place. After Agnodice was freed they made it legal for women to become doctors. 

Mae Jemison, Astronaut, has the distinction of being the first Black Woman to travel into space and be a guest in an episode of Star Trek.

And then, there is Heddy Lamar, actress and inventor. 

Okay. I could go on and on (which I do when explaining this book to anyone who asks, “What have you read lately”), but I'll stop. Though it is unfortunate Bagieu does not include any source notes or books for further reading, I believe this collection of biographies in comic format is the perfect book to give to reluctant readers or those who love reading comics. 

Click here to read an interview with Bagieu. 


Thursday, March 15, 2018

Becoming Madeleine

Becoming Madeleine: A Biography of the Author of A Wrinkle in Time by Her Granddaughters
by Charlotte Jones Voiklis and Lena Roy
Farrar Straus Giroux, 2018
Grades 4-8

The recent release of A Wrinkle in Time film, directed by Ava Duvernay, has brought renewed interest in the 1963 Newbery Award winning novel for middle grade readers. A Wrinkle in Time is a favorite for many children and adults, yet most readers do not know about the life of the author, Madeleine L'Engle.

Charlotte Jones Voiklis and Lena Roy, granddaughters of L'Engle,  pay tribute to their grandmother in the new biography, Becoming Madeleine. The book is organized chronologically beginning with Madeleine's childhood. The authors provides a glimpse into the life of the talented and complex L'Engle, the only child of Charles and Madeleine "Mado" Camp.

Photographs, letters, journals entries, report cards, and poems are interspersed with the text to paint a vivid picture of a young girl who dreamed of becoming a writer. At times, the book is heart-wrenching. After moving from New York City to France, Madeleine is sent away to a boarding school in Montreux, Switzerland, where she is viewed as an outcast by classmates and is treated harshly teachers. After several years abroad, Madeleine and her parents  leave Europe to be near her grandmother in Jacksonville, Florida. Madeleine thrives at Ashley Hall, a private girls' high school in Florida, where she writes and acts. An only child, L'Engle was close with both of her parents. Her father was a professional writer and served as inspiration for L'Engle later in her life.

Middle grade readers will be amazed by the determination and persistence of L'Engle as she tried to publish A Wrinkle in Time. Even though she had previously published several novels, no publishing houses were willing to take a risk on a science fiction book for children featuring a female protagonist. Once Farrar Straus Giroux took a chance and bought the rights, history was made. Pick up a copy of Becoming Madeleine to give to aspiring writers and fans of A Wrinkle in Time.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Between the Lines by Sandra Neil Wallace

Between the Lines: How Ernie Barnes Went from the Football Field to the Art Gallery
Sandra Neil Wallace; Illustrations by Bryan Collier
Simon & Schuster. 2018
ISBN: 9781481443876
Grades 3 and up
To write this review, I used a copy sent by the publisher.

As a child, Ernest Barnes loved to paint. He would wait until the backyard turned to mud after a North Carolina rain. Painting mud.  With a stick, he drew lines: straight, curved, loops, and lines that crossed. Growing up in the segregated South of the 1940’s, Barnes introduction to the master painters was at the house of a white lawyer where his mother was a housekeeper. The first time Ernest saw a room full of leather books and mahogany frames “that Mama polished, he stared at the beautiful paintings in the frames.”

Though he never left the house without a sketchbook, it was his talent as a football player that allowed Ernest to attend college on a football scholarship. After college, Barnes would play for the American Football League until 1964. when he became the Official Artist for the American Football League and was paid a football players salary. 

In this compelling narrative, Wallace conveys Barnes determination to fulfill his dream of one day making his living as an artist. Born in 1938, Barnes was one of the most important artist of his time. Known for his style of elongation and movement, his work has influenced a generation of illustrators and painters. 

The book is beautifully illustrated by Bryan Collier, four-time Caldecott Honor recipient, six-time Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award recipient, and three-time Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor Award recipient. The book’s art is rendered in watercolor and collage. In his illustrator’s note, Collier states, “There are areas where I show you the actual art of Ernie Barnes with his signature exaggerated figures in expressive motion.” 

This informational picture book biography will be of interest to sports fans, and those who someday dream of being a professional artist. Back matter includes an author and illustrator’s note, source notes for quotes, and a bibliography to learn more about Ernie Barnes. Wallace also includes places where you can see Ernie Barnes’s paintings. 


Thursday, March 8, 2018

Snowy Owl Invasion!: Tracking an Unusual Migration

Snowy Owl Invasion!: Tracking an Unusual Migration
by Sandra Markle
Millbrook Press, 2018
Grades 3-6

I recently read an interesting article in the local newspaper about how a high number of snowy owl sightings in Maine have caused problems at the Portland Jetport. Bird watchers aiming to catch a glimpse of the birds are blocking emergency entrances as well as scaring birds into the paths of airplanes.

Sandra Markle's latest high interest science picture book examines the topic of snowy owls and their changing migration patterns. Markle is a pro at using inquiry and questions to draw readers into the story. The first chapter focuses on the Arctic habitat of the snowy owl. In recent years snowy owls have been seen in Canada and the U.S. (as far south as Florida). What has caused them to migrate so far south? Markle interviewed scientists when she was researching the book, and the scientists pose several theories about why snowy owls have migrated south. Each two-page spread is made up of stunning photographs of snowy owls in the wild along with detailed captions. One of the most impressive photographs captures a bird in flight with mottled wings spread.

Readers will also learn about lemmings, the favorite food of the snowy owl, and how the lemming population has exploded over the past few years. Markle effectively introduces new science terms to children and explains the meanings of the words in the context of the story. Irruption is a  key word in the book, when animals are found in areas where they normally do not live. There is just the right amount of text on each page so that upper elementary readers will not be overwhelmed when reading independently. The length of the book and high interest subject make this an excellent read aloud for an upper elementary or middle school science class. The end of the book focuses on a bird banding project that is tracking a dozen snowy owls. Maps are used to convey information about the flight patterns of these birds.

Snowy Owl Invasion! is a strong addition to a school or public library and is a wonderful companion to Markle's other nonfiction mysteries:
The Search for Olinguito
The Case of the Vanishing Little Brown Bat
The Great Monkey Rescue
 The Case of the Vanishing Golden Frogs

Visit the publisher's site to view pages from the book.

Monday, February 26, 2018

New Nonfiction Releases- January and February

It's great to return to the blog again after a year of being on hiatus. Thanks so much to Louise for blogging solo for over a year. She did a fantastic job!

It looks like it's going to be another banner year for nonfiction. I'm really excited about the 2018 titles I've seen so far. Here are some nonfiction books for children and teens that hit shelves in January and February. Look for reviews of many of these titles in the upcoming months.


January Releases

Chasing King's Killer: The Hunt for Martin Luther King Jr.'s Assassin
by James L. Swanson
Scholastic Press
On sale: January 2 

Born to Swing: Lil Hardin Armstrong's Life in Jazz
by Mara Rockliff and Michele Wood
Calkins Creek
On sale: January 2 

March Forward Girl: From Young Warrior to Little Rock Nine
by Melba Pattillo Beals
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers
On sale: January 2 

Facing Frederick: The Life of Frederick Douglass, a Monumental American Man
by Tonya Bolden
Abrams Books for Young Readers
On sale: January 9

Very, Very, Very Dreadful: The Influenza Pandemic of 1918
by Albert Marrin
Knopf Books for Young Readers
On sale: January 9

Between the Lines: How Ernie Banks Went from the Football Field to the Art Gallery
by Sandra Wallace and Bryan Collier
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
On sale: January 23

A Lady Has the Floor: Belva Lockwood Speaks Out for Women's Rights
by Kate Hannigan and Alison Jay
by Calkins Creek
On sale: January 30

Marley Dias Gets It Done: And So Can You!
by Marley Dias
Scholastic Press
On sale: January 30

February Releases

Snowy Owl Invasion: Tracking an Unusual Migration
by Sandra Markle
Millbrook Press
On sale: February 1

Seeing Into Tomorrow
by Richard Wright and Nina Crews
Millbrook Press
On sale: February 1

Becoming Madeleine: A Biography of the Author of A Wrinkle in Time by Her Granddaughters
by Charlotte Jones Voiklis and Lena Roy
Farrar Straus Giroux
On sale: February 6

Girl Running: Bobbi Gibb and the Boston Marathon
by Annette Bay Pimentel and Micha Archer
Nancy Paulsen Books
On sale: February 6

Fly Girls: The Daring American Women Pilots Who Helped Win WWII
by P. O'Connell Pearson
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
On sale: February 6

Votes for Women!: American Suffragists and the Battle for the Ballot
by Winifred Conkling
Algonquin Young Readers
On sale: February 13

A Seed is the Start
by Melissa Stewart
National Geographic
On sale: February 13

Rising Above: Aspiring Women in Sports
by Gregory Zuckerman
Philomel Books
On sale: February 20

The Girl Who Drew Butterflies: How Maria Merian's Art Changed Science
by Joyce Sidman
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers
On sale: February 20

All That Trash: The Story of the 1987 Garbage Barge and Our Problem with Stuff
by Meghan McCarthy
Paula Wiseman Books/Simon & Schuster
On sale: February 27

Monday, February 19, 2018

Nonfiction sightings at #alamw18

One more post about ALA.

I returned home a week ago, Monday, from Denver. For some reason, I felt this conference was the best one since I started attending back in 2005.  Everything just clicked. I so enjoyed being present at events organized by Holiday House, Chronicle Books, HarperCollins, MacMillan, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and our friends at Boyds Mill Press. I went to sessions hosted by USBBY, ALSC, YALSA and a few on the topic of the Future of Libraries. All were excellent. Because my committee obligations were minimal compared to what is expected being on a book award committee, I had the luxury of spending quite a bit of time at the Exhibit Hall investigating what nonfiction is coming out in 2018. 
If you did not see the post about the Youth Media Awards winners, click here to see the list. Congratulations to all who worked so hard all year reading and evaluating the hundreds of titles. (Check out the Newbery winners)

Here are some of the new titles spotted at #alamw18

Champion: The Comeback Tale of the American Chestnut Tree by Sally M. Walker 
Henry Holt

Dog Days of History: the Incredible Story of Our Best Friends by Sarah Albee
National Geographic

Hawk Rising by Maria Gianferrari
Roaring Brook Press

March Forward Girl: From Young Warrior to Little Rock Nine by Melba Pattillo Beals
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Siege: How General Washington Kicked the British Out of Boston and Launched a Revolution by Roxane Orgill

Terrific Tongues!  by Maria Gianferrari
Boyds Mill Press

Happy reading,

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

2018 Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Award

I'm back from #ALAMW18 held in Denver, Colorado. It was an exciting adventure. In case you missed it, on Monday, February 12, the 2018 Youth Media Awards were announced at ALA's Midwinter meeting. I was thrilled with the titles chosen by the 2018 Robert F. Sibert Award Committee.  I can't believe I left off my best list Twelve Days in May: Freedom Ride 1961 by Larry Dane Brimner. It is an excellent book. I will be so happy when Cathy returns! (It should be soon) Two heads are always better than one.

I want to give a huge thank you to all the individuals on all the book award committees. They spend all their free time for a whole year reading and taking copious notes on hundreds and hundreds of books. (It's true!) Their dedication to the process is greatly appreciated.

The 2018 Sibert Honor Books

Chef Roy Choi and the Street Food Remix
written by Jacqueline Briggs Martin and June Jo Lee; illustrated by Man One

Grand Canyon 

Not So Different: What You Really Want to Ask about Having a Disability
written by Shane Burcaw; illustrated by Matt Carr

Sea Otter Heroes: the Predators That Saved an Ecosystem
written by Patricia Newman

And...the winner is...

Twelve Days in May: Freedom Ride 1961

Monday, February 5, 2018

Headed to ALA Midwinter #ALAMW18

It's hard to believe but this week, Cathy and I are headed to Denver and #ALAMW18.  Cathy will be busy with her committee work, while I attend some sessions and then spend time visiting publisher booths to see what new nonfiction titles are coming out this year. I will snap pictures of the book covers to share upon my return. 

Be sure to tune in to the awards announcements on Monday morning, February 12, 2018.
I am always wondering how many of the winners I have read. You, too? Will you agree with the winners? Leave a comment on what books you hope will win.

More later...

Monday, January 29, 2018

Best Nonfiction Books of 2017

Louise's favorite titles from 2017!

In past years Cathy and I have worked together to create our list of favorite nonfiction books, but not this year. Because Cathy is serving on a book award committee, she has been unable to publicly review or write about books throughout 2017. I worked solo on this list and made my selections based on books I have read over the past year. Reviews are linked in the list below. 

I am thrilled to announce that Cathy will return to blogging and reviewing for The Nonfiction Detectives in March. Yeah!

by Dashka Slater
Farrar Straus Giroux

by Sy Montgomery
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

University of Minnesota Press

Grand Canyon by Jason Chin
Roaring Brook Press

edited by Cell Jensen
Algonquin Books of Chappel Hill

by Doug Wechsier

by Sandra Uwiringlyimana and Abigail Pesta
Katherine Tegen Books/HarperCollins

Roaring Brook Press

by Elizabeth Rusch
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

by Loree Griffin
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Candlewick Press

by Dean Robbins
Alfred A. Knopf

by Jeanne Walker Harvey
Christy Ottaviano Books/Henry Holt

by Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan
Roaring Brook Press

by Sue Macy
National Geographic

Muddy: The Story of Blues Legend Muddy Waters
by Michael Mahin

by Greg Pizzoli

by Molly Bang and Penny Chisholm
Blue Sky Press/Scholastic

by Carole Boston
Candlewick Press

by Deborah Heiligman
Godwin Books/Henry Holt

by Jeanette Winter
Beach Lane Books/Simon & Schuster

Jack Gantos

Thanks, everyone. 
I am looking forward to 2018!