The publisher sent me a copy of this book.
Monday, September 29, 2014
The publisher sent me a copy of this book.
Friday, September 26, 2014
by Katheryn Russell-Brown
illustrated by Frank Morrison
Lee & Low Books, 2014
The reviewer received a copy of the book from the publisher.
"Spread the word! Little Melba Doretta Liston was something special."
The first line of this picture book biography announces to readers that they are about to meet an amazing individual. Melba Liston was greatly influenced by jazz music she heard as a child growing up in Kansas City in the 1920s. When her mother bought her a trombone, Melba was hooked. She taught herself to play the trombone relying on her "keen ears" later joining the Melodic Dots, a music club at her high school in Los Angeles in the 1940s.
Katheryn Russell-Brown's engaging narrative style incorporates the sounds of jazz music. Readers will enjoy following Liston's rise from a young girl who loved listening to music to a renowned jazz musician composing, arranging and performing across the country. The author writes about the racism and sexism Liston faced in way that young readers will understand.
"Still, Melba was lonely. She was the only woman in the band. Some of the men were cruel. Others acted as if she wasn't there. Melba let the music in her head keep her company."
Morrison's curved, earth-toned illustrations capture the feeling of the music as well as Liston's strength and determination. The final two-page spread of the story is beautiful. Liston performs on stage, alone, playing her trombone to a sold out audience.
Little Melba and her Big Trombone would make an excellent read aloud for a range of ages. Be sure to play Liston's music for readers. An afterword provides readers with more details about Liston's life and music. Additional back matter includes a discography and list of sources. Pair Little Melba and Her Big Trombone with Jazz Age Josephine by Jonah Winter, When Marian Sang by Pam Munoz Ryan, and Duke Ellington by Andrea Davis Pinkney.
Visit the Lee & Low blog to see a playlist of jazz tunes recommended by Frank Morrison.
Monday, September 22, 2014
by Russell Freedman
Holiday House. 2014
Grades 9 thru 12
To write this review, I borrowed a copy of this book from my local public library.
Friday, September 19, 2014
Have you seen the new nonfiction blog in town? The Nonfiction Minute is a project from the creators of Interesting Nonfiction for Kids. The blog features high interest articles and essays written by various nonfiction authors. There's also a page that provides educators with ideas for how to use the articles with students. Be sure to read Pamela S. Turner's post Why Crows Peck Eyeballs.
Betsy Bird recently tackled the issue of invented dialogue in children's biographies. Here's the post if you missed it. Be sure to scroll down and read the comments below the post.
Tanya Lee Stone wrote a guest post for School Library Journal's Consider the Source column where she explores the issue of what happens when authors blur the lines between fiction and nonfiction. These are issues Louise and I often discuss when evaluating nonfiction for children. Where did the author find the information? Are source notes provided for dialogue? How do we, as readers, know if it is true? Lots of food for thought about children's books, how we define nonfiction and how authors research and present information in nonfiction books.
The 2014 Longlists for National Book Awards were announced this week, and two of the books in the young people's literature category are nonfiction. The Port Chicago 50 and Brown Girl Dreaming both made the longlist this year.
Alyson Beecher at Kid Lit Frenzy has written a series of blog posts to help classroom teachers build nonfiction collections. This has been an invaluable series for both educators and librarians who are looking to beef up their nonfiction sections. Here are Alyson's suggestions for books about marine life.
Monday, September 15, 2014
Friday, September 12, 2014
by Laurie Ann Thompson
Simon Pulse/Beyond Words, 2014
The reviewers received copies of the book from Blue Slip Media.
Teens interested in making a difference in their communities (or even across the globe) will find Be a Changemaker inspiring and practical. Thompson has created an in-depth, step-by-step guide of how to identify a problem, develop a plan, form a team, and work towards a goal. Thompson shows kids how they can use technology and social media as tools to help meet their goals including Kickstarter, Prezi, and Google Drive. Stories of actual community projects and charities started by kids and teenagers are included in each chapter providing readers real life examples and ideas.
I enjoyed the inspirational quotes at the beginning of each chapter. I think teens who are interested in creating an organization or project to help others will find this book really helpful. Thompson breaks it down into smaller, manageable steps while helping teens stay focused on their goals. My favorite parts of the book were the stories about kids who have helped others. I was impressed by the work of Jessica Markowitz and her organization, Richard's Rwanda. The group began by organizing bake sales and fund raisers to support the education of girls in Rwanda.
I found this "how-to handbook" very useful. Thompson uses simple, direct language to explain how to take something you are passionate about and turn it into a reality. Readers will learn how to take that first spark of an idea and create a business plan to launching your idea to the world. I liked how in each chapter Thompson profiles some youth-led social organizations. For example, Project ORANGS is a new venture of two girls from Ann Arbor, Michigan. Their idea was to convince the Girl Scouts of America to switch to deforestation-free and socially responsible sources of palm oil, a main ingredient in their cookies. I wish we could have seen some photos of the the teens and their projects.
Teen Librarian's Toolbox will have a free downloadable workshop guide for libraries and classrooms in late October. Visit Laurie Ann Thompson's website for more details.
Be sure to visit the other stops on the blog tour!
Monday, September 8, 2014
by Melissa Stewart and Nancy Chesley
Stenhouse Publishers, 2014
The reviewer received a copy of the book from the publisher.
Educator, Nancy Chesley, and nonfiction author, Melissa Stewart, have teamed up to create Perfect Pairs, a professional resource for K-2 teachers. The book includes 22 life science lesson plans organized by grade and concept. Each lesson is inquiry-based and begins with an "I wonder" statement for students to think about and respond to in their science journals.
I wonder how a rain forest is different from a desert.
I wonder how animals protect themselves from predators.
The lessons are structured around a three-step "Investigative Process."
1) Engaging students
2) Exploring with students
3) Encouraging students to draw conclusions.
Fiction and nonfiction picture books are paired in each lesson to help young students grasp specific science concepts. For example, the lesson about how animals protect themselves pairs Swimmy by Leo Lionni with What Do When Something Wants to Eat You? by Steve Jenkins. The picture books selected by Stewart and Chesley could also serve as mentor texts for young writers.
Perfect Pairs provides teachers with meaningful ways to use literature and inquiry to engage students in life science concepts. This is a resource that primary teachers should have on their shelves. The "Bibliography of Picture Books" located in the back of the book will be helpful to librarians and teachers looking to beef up their science collections. Librarians, order Perfect Pairs for your library's professional resource collection. The teachers in your school or community will thank you!
Friday, September 5, 2014
Monday, September 1, 2014
edited by Jon Scieszka
illustrated by Brian Floca
Walden Pond Press, 2014
On shelves: Sept. 16, 2014
Grades 4 and up
The reviewer received an advanced copy of the book from the publisher.
Author, Jon Scieszka, has dedicated his life to inspiring boys to read, and he's succeeding. Not only did he serve as the National Ambassador for Young People's Literature. He also created the popular Guys Read website, and he publishes a Guys Read anthology series. The latest addition to the Guys Read library is a real treat for middle grade readers (both boys and girls). In Guys Read: True Stories, Scieszka has compiled outrageous, amazing, and sometimes scary, informational stories from ten authors including Steve Sheinkin, Sy Montgomery, Candace Fleming, and Jim Murphy.
Readers will feel what it's like to be stranded in the Sahara Desert with Captain James Riley, study tarantulas in French Guiana, and learn about the sometimes painful history of dental care. Fans of Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales will appreciate Hale's graphic novel vignette about pioneer Hugh Glass set in 1823. There are also science poems by Douglas Florian, a memoir about growing up in Vietnam by Thanhha Lai, and a biography of Muddy Waters by Elizabeth Partridge. Each chapter begins with an illustration by Brian Floca and ends with a bibliography of sources.
The beautiful thing about Guys Read True Stories is that it's going to make everyone happy. History and science buffs will love these unbelievable (yet true) stories, reluctant readers won't be able to put it down, and teachers can use the book as a mentor text for writing or as an exciting read aloud. The most difficult aspect is deciding where to shelve it in the library. Do you put it in the series section with the other Guys Read books, shelve it with short stories (800s), or place it in general knowledge in nonfiction with the "survey" books? The answer is to put it on display and watch it get scooped up by the readers in your library.
Saturday, August 30, 2014
Tuesday, August 26, 2014
Zest Books. 2014
The publisher sent me a copy of the book to review.
We are pleased to take part in the
Sticky Fingers: DIY Duct Tape Projects
summer blog tour.
Thursday, August 21, 2014
by Jacqueline Woodson
Nancy Paulsen Books, 2014
Grades 4 and up
On shelves Aug. 26, 2014
The reviewer received an advanced copy of the book from the publisher.
I read Brown Girl Dreaming on an airplane flying over the midwest on the way home from the ALA Annual Conference in Las Vegas. I devoured it in one sitting then handed the book to Louise who also read it before we landed. I'm not sure if I can find the words to do justice to this beautifully crafted memoir, but I'll try.
Brown Girl Dreaming is an autobiographical account of Woodson's early life, raised by her mother and grandparents in South Carolina. Told in verse, Woodson uses the fewest words possible to paint a vivid story of what life was like for her family living in the south in the 1960s. Jackie's point of view is strong, allowing readers to see the story from a child's eyes.
In downtown Greenville,
they painted over the WHITE ONLY signs,
except on the bathroom doors,
they didn't use a lot of paint
so you can still see the words, right there
like a ghost standing in front
still keeping you out.
When Woodson and her siblings move to New York to live with their mother, the book offers readers a juxtaposition on life in America: north and south, rural and urban, black and white. Throughout the book, it's evident that Woodson had an affinity for writing and telling stories as a child.
How can I explain to anyone that stories are like
air to me,
I breathe them in and let them out over and over
Louise and I discussed how there are many themes (family, friendship, acceptance and race) from the memoir that appear in Woodson's novels and picture books. Brown Girl Dreaming is a powerful and eloquent memoir that will elicit rich discussions and will serve an inspiration to young writers. I encourage all children's librarians and middle grade teachers to add it to their biography collections. Pair Brown Girl Dreaming with the middle grade novel, One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia, or Allen Say's memoir Painting from Memory.
Other books by Jacqueline Woodson:
The Other Side
Coming On Home Soon
See Jacqueline Woodson discuss her books in this video from Teachingbooks.net.
Monday, August 18, 2014
By Duncan Tonatiuh
To write the review, I borrowed a copy from my local public library.
Wednesday, August 13, 2014
by Marc Aronson and Adrienne Mayor
illustrated by Chris Muller
National Geographic, 2014
Grades 4 and up
The reviewer borrowed a copy of the book from her local public library.
The Griffin and the Dinosaur is a nonfiction mystery that brings together mythology, history, science, and art. In a narrative style, Aronson chronicles Adrienne Mayor's quest to prove the link between the mythological griffin and fossils that ancient people may have unearthed. Over a ten year period, Mayor traveled to Greece numerous times, visited museums, interviewed archeologists, and pored over ancient texts. Mayor's perseverance paid off in 1986 while doing research at the Cornell Library. She came across photographs of protoceratops fossils while reading On the Trail of Ancient Man. The fossils found in the Gobi provided the evidence Mayor needed to link the protoceratops to griffin stories told by the ancient Scythians.
While writing the book, Aronson spent time with Mayor at the American Museum of Natural History and interviewed her at her home in California. Muller's illustrations and the thoughtfully-placed photographs complement this intriguing story. A two-page map with detailed labels is located in the back of the book along with a glossary and list of related resources. The subject and length of the book (48 pages) will attract middle grade readers looking for a book to read an independently, and it would make an ideal classroom read aloud especially for students interested in mythology and ancient history.
Visit The Classroom Bookshelf blog for teaching ideas:
Thursday, August 7, 2014
by Betsy Bird, Julie Danielson,
and Peter D. Sieruta
Candlewick Press, 2014
The reviewers received a galley from the publisher.
We are excited to take part in the Wild Things blog tour. Today you are in for a real treat; we have a guest post from authors Betsy Bird and Julie Danielson.
Bird, Danielson and Sieruta spent several years researching subversive, controversial and scandalous stories from children's literature. Part history and part social commentary, Wild Things is a must-read for educators, librarians, authors and parents with a passion for kidlit. These provocative anecdotes will cause readers to pause and reflect on the role of children's literature in our society and how it has evolved over the decades.
Guest Post by Betsy Bird and Julie Danielson
Poor Ferdinand. He was merely waving a peace sign, yet as the book grew in popularity, critics claimed that perhaps the beloved tale of the Spanish bull was no less than commentary on the Spanish Civil War. In time the book was accused of being communist and fascist and was even banned in some countries.
Author Munro Leaf’s response to the controversy was to note that no political machinations were involved, and he went on to state precisely why he wrote this particular story. But then we can’t give away all of our book’s secrets.
And even if Leaf didn’t intend for the book to represent opinions that swirl around in the world of adults, children’s literature has a tendency to accompany---and sometimes precede---great social changes, another phenomenon we explore in the pages of our book.
And what other picture books have comfortably settled themselves into the canon of subversive children’s book titles, whether they meant to or not? You can find out when Wild Things hits shelves in early August.
Monday, August 4, 2014
DVD resources about Freedom Summer include 10 Days That Unexpectedly Changed America produced by The History Channel and PBS American Experience: Freedom Summer.
Friday, August 1, 2014
by Rebecca L. Johnson
Millbrook Press, 2014
The reviewer received an e-galley from the publisher.
Rebecca L. Johnson has made a name for herself as an outstanding writer of science books for children. Journey to the Deep won an Orbis Pictus Honor Award in 2011, and Zombie Makers was an ALA Notable Children's Book in 2013.
In her latest nonfiction book for middle grade readers, Johnson turns her attention to animal adaptations and defense mechanisms. When Lunch Fights Back will hook readers from the first chapter entitled, "Slip-Sliming Away." Readers learn how the hagfish produces strings of slime when predators attack. A close-up color photo shows slime oozing from the body of a hag fish. In each chapter, Johnson introduces readers to an animal and its defense mechanism and then explains "The Science Behind the Story."
Some of the other animals featured in the book include the African hairy frog with a concealed claw-like bone, the hoopoe chicken which shoots feces at enemies, and the Texas horned lizard that squirts blood out of its eyes. Johnson also adds information scientists who are studying the creatures and their defense mechanisms. The narrative writing style includes vivid descriptions making this a book that could serve as a mentor text for informational writing.
"In a blur of movement, the shark strikes. It grabs the hagfish in its toothy jaws- and instantly lets go. The shark's mouth is overflowing with thick, snot-like goo. The slimy stuff fills its throat and clogs its gills."
The layout of the book is ideal for young readers. Photos, captions and fact boxes are well-placed without interrupting the flow of the text. The black paper used at the beginning of each chapter with contrasting neon green headings and white text will definitely capture the attention of readers. Back matter includes a glossary, bibliography and companion books and videos.
When Lunch Fights Back is a complete package. It's sure to please science teachers looking for an engaging narrative text for the classroom, and it's will definitely be popular with children who want to reading about interesting, unusual and sometimes disgusting animals.
Monday, July 28, 2014
by Candace Fleming
Schwartz & Wade Books, 2014
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.
- 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
by Sarah Albee; Illustrations by Robert Leighton
Walker Books. 2014
I reviewed a copy sent from the publisher.
Perfect for grades 6 and up
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.
Monday, July 21, 2014
by Alan Rabinowitz
illustrated by Catia Chien
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014
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...
Waking Brain Cells