Two intrepid librarians

Two intrepid librarians review the best nonfiction books for children

Monday, October 16, 2017

Twelve Days in May: Freedom Ride 1961 By Larry Dane Brimner

Twelve Days in May: Freedom Ride 1961
By Larry Dane Brimner
Calkins Creek: an imprint of Highlights. 2017
ISBN: 978-1629795867
Grades 7 and up

Note: While Cathy is on Sabbatical until February, 2018, Louise will be composing all the reviews.

“Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” - 
George Santayana, a Spanish philosopher, December 16, 1863- September 26, 1952

History does repeat itself, we witness it year after year after year. At times, our country seems to take big steps forward insuring that all citizens are treated fairly, recognizing the importance of affordable health care, clean air to breath, unpolluted water to drink, free access to the Internet, and a quality public education. But then it happens. After a period of forward-thinking, greed and profit overshadow these lofty goals. We stumble and find ourselves reversing these accomplishments, undoing laws and amendments that set us back years, or in some instances, decades. If history keeps repeating itself, then it is vital that we continue to read about the work that individuals deem important enough to sacrifice their lives to bring about change.

Winner of the 2012 Robert F. Sibert Honor Award for Black & White, Larry Dane Brimner adds another excellent title to his body of work highlighting the Civil Rights Movement. In Twelve Days in May: Freedom Ride 1961, Brimner focusing on the thirteen people, white and black, male and female, young and old, who participated in this historic twelve day bus trip that went from Washington, D.C. to New Orleans, Louisiana. Their goal was to draw attention the lack of enforcement to the law that banned segregation in buses that crossed state lines and at the bus stations.

Traveling in two buses, the riders left Washington, D.C. on May 4 and were met with minor resistance when challenging where they sat on the bus to being served in the stations. It was ten days later, when they arrived in Alabama, a state that openly flaunted their support of the KKK and Jim Crow Laws that this peaceful protest took a turn towards violence. Klan members threw rocks, broke windows and threw a glass bottle stuffed with gasoline-soaked rags into the bus. It exploded in flames. 

Meanwhile, on the second bus, several Klansmen board the bus like ordinary passengers. “As soon as the bus is underway, the Klansmen begin to verbally threaten the Freedom Riders.”  Trained in nonviolence, when the riders did not react to the verbal abuse, the Klansmen grew more violent; several riders are assaulted. 

The overall design makes this book an appealing and powerful read. Large black & white photographs, accurately captioned, complement the concise, finely crafted narrative. There is no excess here; Brimner choses each word deliberately, for their greatest impact. 

Back matter includes bibliography, source notes, index, and a brief bio of all thirteen Freedom Riders: James Farmer, James Peck, Genevieve Hughes, Joseph “Joe” P. Perkins Jr., Walter and Frances Bergman, Albert Smith Bigelow, Jimmy McDonald, Edward “Ed” Blankenheim, Henry “Hank” Thomas, Charles Person, Benjamin Elton Cox, and John Lewis (Cogressman Lewis and author of the March trilogy). 

As educators, both in schools and public libraries, despite shrinking materials budgets, maintaining a balance collection is of great importance. It can be a librarians form of activism to promote books that illuminate our past. 

To write this review, the publisher sent me a copy of this book.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Cybils 2017

It's Cybils time again! I am happy to announce I am a first round judge in the Junior/Senior High Nonfiction category along with these bloggers.

Rebecca Aguilar  Rebecca G. Aguilar

Anne Bennett  My Head is Full of Books

Heidi Grange GEO Librarian

Julie Jurgens Hi Miss Julie

Our fearless leader and Junior/Senior Nonfiction chair is...tada...Jennie Rothschild from Biblio File. 

Nominations are now open until October 15. Please, take a moment and think about which book you would LOVE to nominate. Here is the link to the Cybils nominations page. Keep in mind that books need to be published in the U.S. or Canada between October 16, 2016 and October 15, 2017. ONE BOOK PER CATEGORY PER PERSON. No exceptions. 

You can see a list of what has already been nominated by going here

Thanks, everyone. 

Note: Cathy is on Sabbatical this year and will return February, 2018. Louise is responsible for all reviews until she returns. 

Monday, October 2, 2017

Writing Radar by Jack Gantos

Writing Radar: Using Your Journal to Snoop Out and Craft Great Stories
by Jack Gantos
Macmillan. 2017
ISBN: 9781427291226
All ages
Note: While Cathy Potter is on Sabbatical, Louise is writing all the reviews. Cathy will return February, 2018.

In his new book, Jack Gantos, the hilarious, Newbery-Award winning author, offers his knowledge of writing in this creative writing guide that encourages any aspiring writer to find story ideas in their own lives. His step-by-step guide offers useful advice so that anyone can become a brilliant writer. Don't we all dream of seeing our name on the spine of a book?  

I could go on and on about this fabulous book, but let's listen to Gantos, who is one of the best storytellers around, promote his book,


"More than just a how-to guide, Writing Radar is a celebration of the power of storytelling and an ode to the characters who—many unwittingly—inspired Gantos’s own writing career." from Macmillan.
From adult to children, I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to be a writer. Be sure to have it on your library shelves. Teachers, use it as a guide when teaching creative writing. Like Gantos himself, Writing Radar is a gem. If only Writing Radar had been available when I was a kid maybe my parents might have understood my obsession and used this excellent writing handbook to channel my creativity.
To write this review, I borrowed the book from my local public library.

P.S. I am going to be hearing Jack Gantos speak today (Monday, October 2), at the Maine Library Conference. I am beyond excited.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Schomburg: the Man Who Built a Library by Carole Boston Weatherford

Schomburg: the Man Who Built a Library
By Carole Boston Weatherford; Illustrated by Eric Velasquez
Candlewick Press. 2017
ISBN: 9780763680466
To write this review, I borrowed the book from my,local public library.

Note: While Cathy is on sabbatical until February, 2018, Louise is writing all the reviews.

Where is our historian to give us our side, to teach our people our own history?”

Afro-Puerto Rican, Arturo Schomburg spent his life amassing a large collect of over ten million items of print, music, and art.

“Like a detective, he hunted clues and found facts affirming the role of African descendants in building nations and shaping cultures.”

This stunning informational biography follows Arturo’s life, from his birth in Puerto Rico in 1874 to his arrival in the United States at age seventeen, and traces his life-long passion of searching for materials that confirmed African achievements in art, science, literature, and music. He died June 8, 1938.

 "History was not history unless it was complete from all angles."

Weatherford (Freedom in Congo Square) is a master at crafting poems that say so much with few words. Accompanying the text are the illustrations by Eric Velasquez. Rendered in oil on watercolor paper, these large, luscious paintings give a visual depth to Schomburg’s life.

It is remarkable to learn about some of the materials Schomburg was able to find. A copy of Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral by Phyllis Wheatley, published in 1773. He purchased the military orders of Toussaint Louverture, the leader of the revolt to liberate slaves in Haiti and two volumes written by early American whaler, shipbuilder, and maritime trader, Paul Cuffee.

Arturo was inspired after reading the word written by Frederick Douglass, “his speeches awake Arturo to the power of the pen.”

Arturo wondered why the African heritage of Russian poet Alexander Pushkin and German composer Ludwig van Beethoven was never mentioned.

When his vast collection threatened to overrun his home and threaten his family’s happiness, Arturo sold his collection for $10,000 to the Carnegie Corporation where it was donated to the New York Public Library in 1926. In 1932, Stomburg added four thousand volumes to the Fisk University Library’s Negro Collection.

An extraordinary book about a remarkable man.

Back matter includes a time line, source notes, and bibliography.

“Schomburg placed his personal bookplate in every volume he collected. It featured an engraving of an enslaved woman in chains, hands clasped, looking heavenward. Her plight and her plea spark questions. Schomburg’’s collection holds answers: each artifact a window on the past, each book cover a door of possibilities, each page a passport to freedom.”

Friday, September 22, 2017

Bound By Ice Blog Tour

Bound By Ice: a True North Pole Survival Story 
By Sandra Neil Wallace and Rich Wallace
Calkins Creek. An imprint of Highlights. 2017
ISBN: 9781629794280

Note: While Cathy is on Sabbatical until February, 2018, Louise is writing all the reviews.

Today I'm taking part in the Bound By Ice blog tour. 

On July 8, 1879, Lieutenant Commander George De Long gazed at his wife, Emma. He had agreed to pilot the steamer Jeanette to the Arctic in search of the North Pole. It was believed there was a tropical ocean at the top of the world. Many expeditions had tried and failed, turned back or died from drowning, starvation or succumbed to diseases like scurvy, pneumonia, and lead poisoning. De Long’s expedition was supposed to be different. The U.S.S. Jeanette was better equipped, so success seemed possible. The voyage was expected to last two years. Holding back his emotions, De Long knew that if his ship got stuck in the ice, it was possible that he would never see his wife again.

Sandra and Rich Wallace have penned a thoroughly absorbing account of this ultimately unsuccessful quest. Using primary sources, the whole book leaves readers feeling like they are there on this doomed voyage, battling weather, hunger, and the fear of never seeing home again.  

Well-captioned historical photographs and actual etchings cement that you-are-there feeling. 

Well documented, back matter includes a note from the authors, bibliography, source notes, picture credits, and index. You can go here to download an educator's guide to the book.

I used a copy of the book sent by the publisher to write this review.

Be sure to visit other stops on the blog tour
9/17     Nerdy Book Club
 9/18   Mrs. Yingling Reads
 9/19   The Booklist Reader
9/20     KidLit Frenzy
 9/22       The Nonfiction Detectives

Monday, September 18, 2017

Fault Lines In The Constitution - Blog Tour and Giveaway

Fault Lines In The Constitution: the framers, their fight and the flaws that affect us today
by Cynthia Levinson & Sanford Levinson
PeachTree Press. 2017
ISBN:  9781561459452
Grades 6 and up

Note: While Cathy Potter is on Sabbatical, Louise is writing all the reviews. Cathy returns February, 2018.

Today I'm taking part in the Fault Lines in the Constitution blog tour. As part of the blog tour, I'm giving away one copy of the book donated by the publisher. The details and entry form can be found at the bottom of this page.

"Many of the political issues we struggle with today have their roots in the U.S. Constitution." 

The Fault In The Constitution offers a historical perspective on the creation of our Constitution in 1787 and how we are still struggling today with those issues. 

The Levinson’s suggest that our present system, the House of Representatives and the Senate, the presidential veto, and supermajority requirements for overcoming Senate filibusters make it extremely difficult to pass new and necessary laws which has led many Americans to lose faith in our government, especially Congress

“The Framer’s most basic aim was to transform the people who thought of their state as their country into citizens of the United States. We certainly have a more perfect union than we did in 1787 when the Constitution was written. On the other hand, many aspects of the Constitution produce problems as a well as pride.”

The book is divided up into seven parts with headings: "How Bills Become (Or, More Likely, Don’t Become) Law" ; "Hello, Can You Hear Me?" ; "If America Threw a Party, Would You Be Let In?" ; “Hurrah! I’m 18. Finally I can Vote for the President.” “Not So Fast.” ; "Who’ Running America?" ; "Emergency! Emergency!; Keeping Pace with the Times". Under each heading are chapters, twenty in all. Each chapter begins with a specific example of where a bill or amendment was stalled that the Levinson’s connect back to a specific section of the Constitution. Each example shows how this has influenced our present society and government. The author’s do include current events, such as the 2016 election. 

The ending chapter, "Now What?" offers suggestions on four ways to improve the constitution. The author's retain a nonpartisan attitude, never blaming one political party over another. 

The book is well documented with a timeline of key events cited, several pages of notes, bibliography, a list of the Articles and Amendments of the Constitution, and index.

Click here for the entry form:
Fault in the Constitution book giveaway

Click here to read a Q&A with the authors.
Visit the website by going here to learn more about this interesting and timely book.

I used a copy of the book sent by the publisher to write this review.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Ruth Bader Ginsburg by Jonah Winter

Ruth Bader Ginsburg: The Case of R. B. G. vs. Inequality
Written by Jonah Winter: Illustrated by Stacy Innerst
Abrams Books for Young Readers. 2017
ISBN: 9781419725593

Note: While Cathy Potter is on Sabbatical, Louise is writing all the reviews. Cathy will return February, 2018.

The cover portrait of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the subject of Jonah Winter’s latest picture book biography is striking.  Innerst's painting beckons readers to open and learn more about a remarkable woman who overcame many hardships to become the first female Jewish Supreme Court Justice. 

Winter presents Ginsburg’s story as a court trial. 
Ladies and gentlemen of the jury: During this trial, you will learn about a little girl who had no clue just how important she would become. You will see the unfair world she was born into - where boys were valued more than girls, where women were not encouraged to achieve and aspire. You will see evidence of that unfairness, just as she herself has seen it all her life.”

Ruth Bader was born in Brooklyn, New York on March 15, 1933. Her parents were immigrants who fled Europe to escape anti-Jewish persecution. It would be Ruth’s mother, who graduated from high school at age fifteen and who would have gone on to college had it been an option to women at that time, that encouraged Ruth to have a good education. “Ruth saw her mother save every penny she could for her daughter to someday go to college.”

Not only would Ruth battle anti-semitism in 1930’s and 1940’s America, she would also come up against the attitude that only men needed a college education as she attended Cornell University, then Columbia where she graduated with her degree in law. 

Throughout her career, Ginsburg would be a strong voice for women’s rights. In 1972, Ginsburg became the leader of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) Women’s Rights Project. “Though Ruth herself was not a revolutionary, what she did for women was revolutionary. She won the right for women to  get “equal protection” of the laws - to be treated as equal as men.”

And the verdict? There can be just one. “Because she did not give up, because she refused to let other people define her limitations as a person, Ruth Bader Ginsburg has herself become a symbol of justice in America.”

The illustrations, made with gouache, ink, and Photoshop, use an earthy palette of browns, sepia, and gray with highlights of pinks and reds; a perfect compliment to the text.

Back matter includes a glossary of terms and a lengthy author’s note. 

Perfect for including in any display of women for Women’s History Month.

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

Monday, September 4, 2017

The World Is Not a Rectangle by Jeanette Winter

The World is Not A Rectangle: a portrait of architect Zaha Hadid
Written and Illustrated by Jeanette Winter
Beach Lane Books: imprint of Simon & Schuster. 2017
ISBN: 9781481446993
All ages

Note: While Cathy Potter is on Sabbatical, Louise is writing all the reviews. Cathy will return February, 2018.

Jeanette Winter turns her talent as a writer and illustrator to tell the life of Iraqi architect, Zaha Mohammad Hadid. Zaha was “the most irreverent, controversial, and celebrated architect in the world.”  

Zaha, born on October 31, 1950, grew up in Baghdad, Iraq. With her father she would visit rivers, marshes, dunes, “and imagined what cities looked like thousand of years ago.” 

Zaha moved to London to attend college. After graduating, she would open a studio in an old school building. Nicknamed, "Queen of the Curve," her buildings were never a rectangular shape. She took inspiration from the surrounding landscapes, making her buildings unique. Zaha never wanted her work to fit nicely inside an accepted box.
Zaha Hadid’s Heydar Aliyev Center in Baku, Azerbaijan, completed in 2012.

This informational picture book biography is a brief introduction to a remarkable woman. In 2004, Zaha became the first woman and first Muslim to win the coveted Pritzker Architecture Prize. Sadly, she passed away in March, 2016.

The book's design models how Zaha saw her world, not as a rectangle, but full of curves that reflect the flow of the environment where her buildings now stand. The text, instead of linear across the page seem to undulate above and below Winter's gorgeous art. 

Back matter includes a two page spread that identifies where each of Zaha's buildings, shown in the book, reside. Also, a brief author’s note, a few quotes from Zaha, and a bibliography of sources Winter used for research.

Share with students interested in design or put on display with other books about remarkable women. 

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