Two intrepid librarians

Two intrepid librarians review the best nonfiction books for children

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Tiny Stitches

Tiny Stitches: The Life of Medical Pioneer Vivien Thomas 
by Gwendolyn Hooks
illustrated by Colin Bootman
Lee & Low Books, 2016
Grades 3-8

Readers in search of an interesting biography should pick up a copy of Tiny Stitches. The informative picture book biography highlights the accomplishments of Vivien Thomas, an African American surgical technician and researcher who helped pioneer a procedure for performing open heart surgery on infants.

Gwendolyn Hooks takes readers through the major events of Thomas's life growing up in Tennessee during the Great Depression. Due to economic hardships after the stock market crash, Thomas was not able to afford to attend medical school. He took a job as a research assistant at Vanderbilt University with Dr. Alfred Blalock. The pair left Vanderbilt went to work at Johns Hopkins where they performed the first successful open heart surgeries on infants along with Dr Helen Taussig.

Bootman's realistic style watercolor illustrations bring a serious tone to the story. As Thomas and Dr. Taussig work to find a method for operating on babies, the author includes scientific details about the respiratory system that will satisfy curious readers. Middle grade readers will be surprised and saddened to learn that  Dr. Blalock and Dr. Taussig received credit for pioneering the surgical procedures on babies. Thomas was not publicly recognized for his work until twenty-six years after the first surgery.

Pair Tiny Stitches with Breakthrough!: How Three People Saved "Blue Babies" and Changed Medicine Forever by Jim Murphy.

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

Monday, September 12, 2016

Blood Brother- Blog Tour

Blood Brother: Jonathan Daniels and His Sacrifice for Civil Rights
by Rich Wallace and Sandra Neil Wallace
Catkins Creek, 2016
Grades 6-12

I am pleased to take part in the Blood Brother book tour today; the book hits shelves tomorrow!

Blood Brother is the important and little-known story of civil rights activist, Jonathan Daniels. The Wallaces learned about Daniels when they moved to his hometown of Keene, NH. The authors spent a great deal of time researching and "sleuthing" to piece together the details of Daniels' life.  They conducted interviews, read personal letters, located photographs taken by Daniels, and studied material from the Jonathan Daniels Collection at Keene State College. The result is a highly engaging and informative nonfiction narrative for teens.

Daniels was a seminary student in New England in 1965. Inspired by the work and words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Daniels traveled to Alabama to join the fight for civil rights. Daniels was white and from the north, which made him a target for harassment by police and locals.  The authors show Daniels as a compassionate and brave individual who looked for the most effective ways he could make an impact in ending segregation. Daniels volunteered on voter registration drives, fought to integrate churches, and participated in the historic march from Selma to Montgomery. One of the most impactful things Daniels did was to purchase a camera and photograph the violence he witnessed. He also took photos of contaminated water supplies and poor living conditions in some African American communities.

Young adult readers will be saddened to learn of Daniels' violent, shooting death upon being released from jail in Hayneville, Alabama. Despite eyewitness accounts of the shooting, the murderer was found not guilty by an all-white jury. A civil lawsuit following the trial later brought changes to the judicial system in Alabama.

The Wallaces weave together quotes, descriptions of events, powerful photographs and primary documents to paint a vivid picture of the people behind the civil rights movement. Be sure to read the back matter including the timeline, bibliography and authors' note. Pair Blood Brother with March: Book One, Turning Fifteen on the Road to Freedom, or Freedom Summer.

Don't miss the Blood Brother book trailer.


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

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Zap! Nikola Tesla Takes Charge

Zap! Nikola Tesla Takes Charge 
by Monica Kulling
illustrated by Bill Slavin
Tundra Books, 2016
Grades K-6

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

Nikola Tesla is the latest subject in Monica Kulling's Great Idea Series featuring innovators and inventors. The story of Nikola Tesla is sure to intrigue readers. The picture book biography begins with Tesla departing from a ship in New York Harbor in 1884. He is "excited and a little nervous" to begin life in the U.S. Tesla, a science prodigy from Croatia to work in Thomas Edison's lab. Edison turned out to be a terrible boss and didn't pay Tesla the $50,000 he promised for work on direct current. A rivalry formed between the two inventors and continued until the World's Fair in Chicago hired Edison to light the buildings in 1893. Kids will love Bill Slavin's charming pen and ink drawings. The crisp narrative text and engaging artwork make this a great read aloud for upper elementary readers.

Don't miss other titles in the Great Idea Series including Going Up!: Otis's Trip to the Top, To the Rescue: Garrett Morgan Underground, and Spic and Span!: Lillian Gilbreth's Wonder Kitchen

Monday, August 8, 2016

Nadia: The Girl Who Couldn't Sit Still

Nadia: The Girl Who Couldn't Sit Still 
by Karlin Gray
illustrated by Christine Davener
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016
Grades K-5

As I watched the Olympics on television Sunday evening a familiar face was in the crowd for the women's gymnastics competition: Nadia Comaneci was in Rio to cheer on the 2016 gymnasts. A new picture book biography introduces young children to the Romanian gymnast and her incredible accomplishments during the 1976 Olympics in Montreal.

The story begins with Nadia as a young girl full of energy and describes how she became involved with gymnastics at an early age. Colorful ink and colored pencil illustrations capture the action and excitement of the gymnastic competitions. The narrative effectively incorporates quotes from the gymnast, her family and coach. Readers will be interested to learn that after Comaneci's Olympic performance on the bars, the "scoreboard flashed a number: 1:00." Coach Bela Karolyi questioned the judges and learned that Comaneci actually scored a 10. The scoreboard could only register 9.99 since no gymnast had ever received a perfect 10 before. Comaneci became the youngest gymnast (age 14) to win a gold medal at the Olympics.

Be sure to read the author's note which explains how and why Comaneci defected from Romania to the U.S. in 1989. Back matter also includes source notes, a timeline and a selected bibliography. Pair Nadia: The Girl Who Couldn't Sit Still with Queen of the Track: Alice Coachman: Olympic High Jump.

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

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Jazz Day

Jazz Day: The Making of a Famous Photograph
by Roxanne Orgill
illustrated by Francis Vallejo
Candlewick, 2016
Grades 2-6

In 1958, fifty-seven jazz musicians gathered on a street in Harlem to pose for a photo for Esquire. The photo entitled "A Great Day in Harlem" became an iconic image from the 20th century, and the story behind the photograph is amazing.

In this extended picture book, Roxanne Orgill uses free verse poetry to describe how the photograph came to be. It was conceived by Art Kane, an art designer and fan of jazz music.  Kane was not a photographer; he didn't even own a camera. Kane pitched his idea to Esquire, made an open invitation to musicians in New York, and borrowed a camera. The rest is history.

As readers turn the pages of Jazz Day, they are introduced to jazz musicians including Thelonius Monk, Mary Lou Williams, Count Basie, and Duke Ellington.

Ten in the morning was unspeakably early
For Thelonius Monk
Who was always
Late
Taxi waited outside his building
On West Sixty-Third
Meter Running
An hour and more
While Monk tried on jackets
To complete the perfect outfit

The poems eloquently convey the mood of the day while also describing the interaction of the musicians, their attire and how children in the neighborhood lined the curb to watch the event. Vallejo's realistic, acrylic and pastel illustrations capture the festive atmosphere and emotions of the musicians as they gather on the street.

When everyone is in place...

click
all eyes looking
this way
click
click
it has to be perfect
for Esquire

Dizzy sticks out his tongue

Near the end of the story a page folds open to reveal the impressive black and white photograph. Be sure to read the back matter which includes short bios of several musicians, an author's note, an extensive bibliography and a diagram that labels each person in the photograph.

There is so much goodness packed into just sixty-six pages of Jazz Day. It is a recommended purchase for school and public libraries. Pair Jazz Day with Duke Ellington by Andrea Davis Pinkney, Harlem by Walter Dean Myers, and Jazz on a Saturday Night by Leo Dillon. I predict that we will hear more about Jazz Day when the ALA Youth Media Awards are announced in January.

Click here to view the photo "A Great Day in Harlem."

Monday, July 18, 2016

Coyote Moon- Blog Tour and Giveaway

Coyote Moon 
by Maria Gianferrari
illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline
Roaring Brook Press, 2016
Grades K-5

Today I'm taking part in the Coyote Moon blog tour. The book officially hits shelves tomorrow. As part of the blog tour, I'm giving away one copy of Coyote Moon donated by the publisher. The details and entry form can be found at the bottom of this page.

The engaging narrative of Coyote Moon follows the journey of a female coyote as she hunts for prey at night. Gianferrari writes in the present tense in a style that is poetic at times. The precise language and word choice make for a thrilling read as the mother coyote creeps, charges and pounces in her quest to find food for her family.

Ibatoulline's realistic illustrations use somber colors to give readers a sense of what it is like to hunt for food in the dark. One exciting spread shows the coyote leaping through the darkness with just one word "Pounce!" printed on the page. As the sun rises, the coyote is successful in catching a turkey to bring back to the den for her pups. The killing of the turkey is realistic, yet the author and illustrator are sensitive to the young audience. The turkey's tail feathers can be seen on the page alongside the face of the coyote and the sentence, "Now coyote's family will eat."

Back matter provides readers with additional facts about coyotes and lists of books and websites for further reading. Read aloud Coyote Moon to elementary classes as part of a science unit on predators or food chains. The book would also make the perfect mentor text for students writing narratives or poems about natural science.

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

Read the Reading for Research blog post and interview with Maria Gianferrari and her editor, Emily Feinberg.

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

Be sure to visit other stops on the blog tour this week.

July 15   Pragmatic Mom

July 19   Debtastic Reads

July 20   Kid Lit Frenzy

July 21   Librarian's Quest

July 22   KidLit 411

July 25   The Reading Zone

July 26   Bartography

July 27   Unleashing Readers

Coyote Moon- Giveaway





Friday, July 15, 2016

Gorillas Up Close

Gorillas Up Close  
by Christena Nippert-Eng
Photographs by John Dominski
and Miguel Martinez
Henry Holt and Company, 2016
Grades 3-6

The majority of the animal books in the 500s section of my school library focus on animals in the wild. Occasionally there are books about animals that were rescued and rehabilitated such as Winter's Tail: How One Dolphin Learned to Swim Again or Owen & Mzee: The True Story of a Remarkable Friendship. When I sat down to read Gorillas Up Close, I was expecting a typical expository text about gorillas in their natural habitat. I was pleasantly surprised that this is a unique book featuring gorillas living at the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago.

The book evolved from a course taught by Professor Christena Nippert-Eng at the Illinois Institute of Technology. Students were assigned to observe gorillas at the local zoo as a way of improving their observation and data collection skills. According to the author's note, several students collaborated with Nippert-Eng to research, write and photograph the images for the book.

In Gorillas Up Close, middle grade readers will learn about the behaviors, diet, family structure and habitat of the western lowland gorilla. The Introduction asks readers to ponder several questions about how gorillas and humans compare and the challenges and ethics of keeping gorillas in captivity.

"What should be the role of zoo gorillas in ensuring the future of the species?"

The book is well-organized into chapters about each type of gorilla in a troop: silverbacks (leaders of a family troop), infants & juveniles, adult females, teenagers and bachelors. Photographs and detailed information about specific gorillas make the book feel like a family photo album at times. Readers will learn how zoos design habitats, group gorillas, feed the animals and provide opportunities for the gorillas to use tools and solve problems they might encounter in the wild. I was especially impressed with the back matter that offers tips for identifying and observing gorillas in zoos. Young readers will gravitate to the baby pictures of members of the bachelor troop in the back of the book.

There are many ways Gorillas Up Close could be used in classrooms. The book could provide supporting evidence for students writing persuasive pieces or debating whether or not animals should be kept in captivity. It would also make the perfect nonfiction companion book to The One and Only Ivan. Place the book on display in a library or classroom and an animal lover is sure to snatch it up for pleasure reading.

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

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

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Whoosh!: Lonnie Johnson's Super-Soaking Stream of Inventions

Whoosh!: Lonnie Johnson's Super-Soaking Stream of Inventions
by Chris Barton
illustrated by Don Tate
Charlesbridge, 2016
Grades K-5

Chris Barton and Don Tate collaborated on last year's successful picture book biography, The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch. I'm pleased that the duo is back with the engaging picture book about engineer, Lonnie Johnson. Johnson was a creative and inventive child who tinkered on projects and built rockets at home in Alabama. He went on to build a robot for a science fair in 1968. Later, Johnson had an important role in NASA's Galileo probe to Jupiter. He was tasked with creating a "lightweight backup system able to keep essential functions going" if power was lost.

Young readers will be especially interested in how Johnson used his knowledge of science to invent the Super-Soaker water gun while working on a new cooling system for air conditioners and refrigerators. Barton's narrative captures the essence of the determined Johnson. Tate's digital, cartoon-style illustrations have lots of kid appeal. The word "WHOOSH!" is effectively placed on several pages adding a sense of excitement and joy.

Whoosh! is an inspiring story that will make children delight in what is possible. Put Whoosh! into the hands of students who are assigned to read a biography for class. They will thank you! Be sure to read the author's note explaining how Barton came up with the idea for the book (hint: librarians are involved).


Read Don Tate's blog post about interviewing Johnson and doing research for the illustrations. 

Check out Chris Barton's blog post about NASA's Juno spacecraft.

Friday, July 1, 2016

The Great White Shark Scientist

The Great White Shark Scientist 
by Sy Montgomery
photographs by Keith Ellenbogen
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016
Grades 5 and up

It's Shark Week on the Discovery Channel, and it's the perfect time to review the latest Scientists in the Field book, The Great White Shark Scientist. Author, Sy Montgomery, and photographer, Keith Ellenbogen, have teamed up on another exciting marine biology story for kids. (Last summer the duo brought us The Octopus Scientists.)

The Shark Scientist features Dr. Greg Skomal, a biologist studying great white sharks in Chatham, MA (not far from where the setting of Jaws). Organized chronologically by day, the book follows the work of Skomal and his crew one summer as they tag sharks off the coast of Cape Cod. In her signature narrative style, Montgomery eloquently blends dialogue, description and facts to paint a vivid picture for readers.

"Look at those rocks!" says Keith, marveling at what looks like hundreds of dark boulders on the beach. 

"Those aren't rocks," says Greg."Those are seals- lots of seals!" Cynthia, Jeff and Pam set to counting them. It looks like there are 250 just in this one group. "The sharks eat everything," explains Greg, "but it's these seals that's drawing them to the Cape." (p. 5)

Ellenbogen's impressive photographs capture sharks underwater, divers in submersible cages, and Skomal on his boat tagging sharks. Readers will take a way a new appreciation of sharks and an understanding of why humans need to save them. The Great White Shark Scientist is a recommended purchase for schools and libraries. It would make an exciting and informative nonfiction read aloud for grades 4 and up.

Visit the publisher's site to download a discussion guide.

Other reviews of The Great White Shark Scientist:
Kid Lit Frenzy
Geo Librarian



Wednesday, June 22, 2016

You Can Fly: The Tuskegee Airmen

You Can Fly: The Tuskegee Airmen 
by Carole Boston Weatherford
illustrated by Jeffrey Boston Weatherford
Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2016
Grades 5-12

Carole Boston Weatherford is one of my favorite poets and authors of books for children. Her picture book, Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer, Spirit of the Civil Rights Movement won many awards and praises last year including a 2016 Sibert Honor.

Weatherford's latest book, You Can Fly, is a small book that packs a big punch. The book is comprised of powerful poems about the Tuskegee Airmen who flew and fought in World War II. The second person narrative style of the poems is effective in placing readers in the story, giving them a first hand account of what it was like to serve in a segregated military.

"As you stand at attention, your commander
tells you cadets to look left and right.
The men beside you may not make it.
You glance at your comrades,
hoping you all beat the odds.
You pray every night to make the cut."


Readers will learn about the elite group of pilots, known as the Tuskegee Airmen, who trained in Alabama and fought bravely in Europe. Weatherford masterfully weaves together social, political and popular culture to paint a realistic picture of the U.S. at a time when men who did not have basic human rights and freedoms were asked to give their lives for their country.

"No use candy-coating the truth:
Gasoline and sugar were rationed
during the war, and metal was reserved
for the defense industry,
but racism was never in short supply."

 Jeffrey Boston Weatherford's black and white scratchboard illustrations are based on photographs from World War II. Back matter includes an lengthy time line of important events and a list of resources including links to museum sites and primary documents. You Can Fly is a recommended purchase for public and school libraries. If I taught American History in a middle or high school, You Can Fly would be required reading for my students.



Monday, June 20, 2016

Crossing Niagara

Crossing Niagara: The Death-Defying Tightrope Adventures of the Great Blondin
by Matt Tavares
Candlewick, 2016
Grades K-5

In stunning watercolor, gouache and pencil illustrations, Tavares conveys the incredible story of the Great Blondin, a tightrope walker who set his sights on crossing Niagara Falls in 1859.

Crowds packed the area to see The Great Blondin walk across the falls. Gamblers placed bets on whether he would make it across or "plummet to his death." Not only did he succeed in crossing Niagara Falls, but the Great Blondin also performed stunts and tricks along the way. Young readers will find a lot to like in this narrative, picture book biography. Fold-out pages and illustrations from various points of view capture the dangerous feat. Crossing Niagara would make an entertaining read aloud for story time or an exciting book for a parent to read to a child. Pair Crossing Niagara with Queen of the Falls by Chris Van Allsburg.

Visit the author's website to see pages from the book.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Nonfiction Summer Reading Suggestions

I spent the weekend creating summer reading lists for K-5 students in my elementary school. While I was compiling this year's lists, I consulted a number of summer reading lists created by librarians, teachers, parents and organizations. I noticed that many summer reading lists shy away from nonfiction titles.

Here are some new nonfiction titles that kids will enjoy reading over the summer months.


History




Whoosh!: Lonnie Johnson's Super-Soaking Stream of Inventions by Chris Barton and Don Tate




Crossing Niagara by Matt Tavares


Samurai Rising by Pamela S. Turner


You Can Fly: The Tuskegee Airmen by Carole Boston Weatherford



Science


Flying Frogs and Walking Fish by Steve Jenkins and Robin Page



Science Comics: Dinosaurs: Fossils and Feathers by MK Reed and Joe Flood


Masters of Disguise: Amazing Animal Tricksters by Rebecca L. Johnson


The Great White Shark Scientist by Sy Montgomery and Keith Ellenbogen


Fun Facts


The Slowest Book Ever by April Pulley Sayre and Kelly Murphy



National Geographic Kids: National Parks Guide U.S.A. (Centennial Edition)



Real or Fake?: Far-Out Fibs, Fishy Facts, and Phony Photos To Test for the Truth 
by Emily Krueger

Here's the coconut I received in the mail from National Geographic proving that it's true, you can mail a coconut.




Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Prairie Dog Song

Prairie Dog Song: The Key to Saving North America's Grasslands
by Susan L. Roth and Cindy Trumbore
Lee and Low Books, 2016
Grades K-5

Susan L. Roth and Cindy Trombore have earned many honors and praises for their picture books including the 2014 Robert F. Sibert Medal for Parrots Over Puerto Rico. Their new nonfiction picture book highlights the role prairie dogs play in maintaining the balance of the grasslands in North America. As the title states, the story takes the form of a song. Each page features a stanza from the song as readers learn about the grasslands ecosystem and how prairie dogs help the grasses and make the soil rich.

"And up above
Some bison grazed,
With the Heaviest hooves
That you ever did see.
Yes, the bison grazed 
And stomped their hooves.
And the owls burrowed,
And the prairie dogs built 
Their homes in the ground.
And the grasses waved
All around, all around
And the grasses waved all around."

One of the strengths of the book is its unique design. Expository paragraphs are placed below the song stanza on the left side of the page. Younger readers will be able to access the narrative/song part of the story while older readers (grades 3-5) will find the information provided in the expository sections of interest.  Lush, paper and fabric collage illustrations depict animals, plants and people in the grasslands. Roth uses a variety of material to show the many textures and complex colors of the prairie.

A detailed timeline with photos, glossary and sources are listed in the back matter. Readers who are interested in music will appreciate the music and lyrics published in the back of the book arranged by Dale Trumbore.

Prairie Dog Song could be read aloud to science classes studying ecosystems or writing classes learning to write in narrative and expository styles. Pair with No Monkeys, No Chocolate by Melissa Stewart and ask readers to compare and contrast the concepts in the two books.

Visit the publisher's website to view pages from the book and to hear the Prairie Dog Song.

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

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.