Friday, January 27, 2012

Born and Bred in the Great Depression By Jonah Winter

Born and Bred in the Great Depression
By Jonah Winter; Illustrated by Kimberly Bulcken Root
Schwarts & Wade Books. 2011
ISBN: 9780375861970
(Grades K and up)
I checked this book out of the public library.

The Great Depression is not a topic children frequently ask about, yet I believe this will change after reading Winter 's loving tribute to his father who grew up in East Texas during the Great Depression.
“In that tiny white frame house/there were ten of you – /eight kids/ and your parents – in four small rooms./You slept at the foot of one bed/because there were only two beds/ and you were the youngest." 

The narrative reads like a conversation the author is having with his father. "You got your water from a well/because there was no indoor plumbing./There were no toilets,/so you had to use an outhouse./I know, because you've told me, Dad./This was the world you grew up in."

The marriage of text and illustrations makes this tender book endearing. Using drawing pencils, ink, and watercolor on watercolor paper, Root captures this busy family as they go about their lives. Most of the double-page spreads show Winter’s father doing his chores, smushed at the foot of the bed with his 7 siblings, or riding with his father to pick up a block of ice in their "old Model T." Readers can see that everyone went without most of the basic comforts we take for granted because they were too expensive or unavailable. Yet, not having enough money for shoes did not impede on Winter's father's ability to have fun. Root shows us the young boy enjoying his freedom by walking on the railroad tracks. Never sentimental or gloomy, we learn that people needed to be tough and resourceful. They read by kerosene lantern because they couldn’t afford electricity. Granny Winter had to work hard to keep everyone fed. “The way you describe her, Granny Winter/did everything – cooking, cleaning,/gardening, milking." 

The family photos of Winter's grandparents and father on the end pages adds authenticity. There is no author's note.

For children of today the Great Depression, 1929-1939, happened a very long time ago. They probably have no living relative who experienced those hardships. Fortunately, we can hand them this touching, nonfiction picture book that will gently introduce the subject without being overwhelming.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Far from Shore: Chronicles of an Open Ocean Voyage by Sophie Webb

Far from Shore: Chronicles of an Open Ocean Voyage
by Sophie Webb
Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, 2011
ISBN: 9780618597291
Grades 4-8

The reviewed received a copy of the book from the publisher.
Biologist and seabird expert, Sophie Webb, shares an up-close look at the work of field scientists in Far from Shore. Based on her own experiences aboard the NOAA vessel, McArthur II, Webb provides readers with a first-hand account as the crew collects data on dolphins, whales, and seabirds in the Eastern Tropical Pacific. Each entry in the book provides the longitude and latitude of the ship which can be cross-checked with the map in the front of the book. The purpose of the voyage is to record data about dolphins to see if the changes in fishing regulations have had an impact on the marine mammal population.

Webb brings to life the work of scientists by adding her own personal reflections and details about life on the ship. The small details that the author includes make this book a gem. Webb describes what meals are like and how duct tape is used to secure items during the voyage. Throughout out the book, it's evident that Webb has great respect for nature.

"The Milky Way looks like a long, hazy cloud. When I look through my binoculars it becomes millions of specks of twinkling light. The breeze is warm and soft- truly a beautiful night."

Webb not only writes the text, but she illustrates each picture, map and graph. The illustrations are fitting for the science journal format. Brilliant watercolor and gouache paints are used to illustrate creatures great and small, from plankton to whales.  Detailed captions provide readers with additional facts about marine life. One impressive illustration is a full-page depicting a tuna net in the gorgeous blue waters of the ocean while a helicopter circles overhead. A two-page spread shows dolphins, mahi-mahi, sea turtles and other marine life swimming in a field of sea grass each illustration is labeled with the name of the species. An extensive glossary of scientific terms is located at the end of the book.

Middle grade readers and young naturalists will be attracted to this beautiful book. It would also work well as a read aloud in an upper elementary or middle school science class. It definitely deserves a place in a science collection and would make an excellent companion to the Scientist in the Field books.

Friday, January 20, 2012

North: the amazing story of Arctic migration by Nick Dowson.

North: The amazing story of Arctic migration
by Nick Dowson; Illustrated by Patrick Benson
Candlewick Press. 2011
ISBN: 9780763652715
Grades 3-6
A copy of the book was checked out from the public library.

Nick Dowson introduces migration to the Arctic, "this huge place that sits at the top of our world" in this visually stunning book. We learn that the winter months are long and cold and we see a landscape in hues of blues and grays were everything is snow and ice. Yet this hostile environment changes when summer burst forth teaming with life. 

"It's summer in the Arctic. All day and night, the sun spreads light, warming soil and water. Tundra flowers glow rainbow-bright, the calm air hums with summer bees, and mosquitoes rise like smoke from shining pools. NEW LIFE IS EVERYWHERE…"

Using watercolor, pen, and pencil, Patrick Benson's exquisite illustrations bring the sparse text to life. The book is 30 cm., the same size as most picture books, but it feels larger because the double-page spreads take up all the space, making you feel as if you are right there in the Arctic witnessing this incredible act of nature. Especially, the transformation from winter (gray tint) to summer (teaming with greens, blue sky, and colors for flowers) and back to winter again. Many of the pages are wordless as we witness the different creatures making their journey. 

Students will be intrigued by the facts. The gray whale leaves Mexico to travel five thousand miles, over eight weeks, passing Los Angeles, San Francisco, Vancouver, Anchorage.  While the bar-tailed godwits make their way from New Zealand.

Dowson includes a glossary, index, along with some important scientific facts about the Arctic: the size (5.4 million square miles), temperature during winter (-40 degrees F) and how global warming is affecting the ice cap and threatening some native Arctic species with extinction. (Polar Bears)

This book that belongs in all libraries.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

A Nation's Hope Giveaway

A Nation's Hope: The Story of Boxing Legend Joe Louis
by Matt de la Pena, illustrated by Kadir Nelson
Dial Books for Young Readers, 2011
ISBN: 97808023731677
Gr. 3-6

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

Have you heard about the challenge we've organized along with Alyson from Kid Lit Frenzy? We're challenging people to read more nonfiction picture books this year. If you would like to take part in the challenge, visit the Kid Lit Frenzy blog and add your name to the list.

In honor of the 2012 Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge, we have a review of a picture book biography from 2011. We will also give away one copy of the book to one of our readers. (See the giveaway details below.)

Matt de la Pena eloquently tells the story of how a young Joe Louis, who was teased for stuttering, became a world class boxer and faced off with Max Schmeling, a boxer who represented Hitler's Germany. The book focuses on the 1938 match between Louis and Schmeling and how the event brought blacks and whites together during a time of segregation in the U.S.

"It was now more than just blacks who needed a hero. It was all of America, and color was set aside."

Using dark oil paints on wood, Nelson's illustrations convey the tension and emotion of the famous fight. Nelson masterfully uses shadows throughout the book: a silhouette of Louis jabbing at a punching bag, a man with a pipe listening to the radio, the shadow of Max Schmeling's body on the floor of the boxing ring after he is knocked down.

I have read this book several times, and I notice something new each time I pick it up. It's amazing how the words and illustrations work so well together. I read the story to a class of third graders, and they were captivated. It's a beautiful book to read aloud; it's poetic at times. The students had a powerful discussion about segregation, World War II and Hitler, however I had to provide quite a bit of background information. An author's note, timeline or list of additional sources would be helpful for young readers who lack knowledge about Jim Crow and World War II.

The ALA Youth Media Awards will be announced on Monday, January 23rd. I wouldn't be surprised to see A Nation's Hope bring home some awards.

We will give away one copy of A Nation's Hope as part of the 2012 Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge.

Giveaway Rules
  • Complete the entry form below.
  • Only one entry per person will be accepted.
  • You must be 13 years or older to enter.
  • Entries will be accepted from 12:00 am on Monday, Jan. 16, 2012 until 11:59 pm on Saturday, Jan. 21, 2012.
  • The winner will be contacted by email. If the winner does not respond within 48 hours, we will select a new winner.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Here Come the Girl Scouts! by Shana Corey

Here Come the Girl Scouts! 
By Shana Corey; Illustrated by Hadley Hooper
Scholastic Press. 2012
ISBN: 9780545342780

This reviewer’s copy was sent to her by the publisher. Thank you.
(All ages)

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the Girl Scouts. In Here Comes the Girl Scouts, Corey describes the indelible spirit of Juliette Low, founder of The Girl Scouts and how she would forever changed the lives of girls. Corey’s words convey the jaunty spirit of Low, nicknamed Daisy, that is perfectly matched by Hadley Hooper’s illustrations. (The pictures were created with traditional paint, ink and printmaking techniques, then scanned and assembled in Photoshop)

The book opens with: “Daisy was a girl with gumption." We see that gumption as Daisy stands next to a tree with a tree house, holding a fishing rod. The boards leading up onto the tree house platform have these words, “Gump-shun (n) courage, spunk, initiative, wit”  There are also these words just to the left of Daisy’s head:  “To make yourself strong and healthy, it is necessary to begin with your insides.” The book explains how Daisy said "bosh!" to the expectation that women should be "dainty and delicate." And as she grew into a woman, “Daisy had adventure after adventure. When she wanted a new gate for her house, she took lessons from a blacksmith and forged it herself.”

After a trip to England where she discovered the existence of the Boy Scouts, Daisy was determined to create a similar club exclusively for girls. Her first meeting of the Girl Scouts was held on March 12, 1912. From its inception, Low believed that all girls should have the same opportunities as boys, both in education and physical activity. Girls went hiking, swimming, took long walks,  learned how to tie knots, stop runaway horses, and enjoy the clean, fresh air.

In conclusion, we see two girls standing looking at portraits of women who were Girls Scouts and grew up to make a difference. Among the faces are Natalie Merchant, Gloria Steinem, Hillary Clinton, and Lucille Ball. “Girl Scouts have been making a difference ever since – just like Daisy.”

Children will love this picture book biography for its re-enforcement that girls can grow up to be anything.  The overall design is very attractive. Hadley places quotes from the first Girl Scout Handbook, written by W. J. Hoxie liberally throughout the book. The quotes add so much depth to Low’s story.
An author’s note and source notes round out this wonderful picture book biography. 

Monday, January 9, 2012

How the Dinosaur Got to the Museum by Jessie Hartland

How the Dinosaur Got to the Museum 
by Jessie Hartland
Blue Apple Books, 2011
ISBN: 9781609050900
Gr. K-3

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

Do you have dinosaur fans in your library? I work with patrons between the ages of 5-11 who are frequent flyers in the 567.9 section. They check out piles of dinosaur books each week. These kids can pronounce names dinosaur names perfectly, and they remember facts and stats about each species.  But, have they ever wondered How the Dinosaur Got to the Museum?

Inquisitive students and dinosaur lovers will enjoy this companion to How the Sphinx Got to the Museum. The story begins at the Smithsonian.  A boy standing beside an exhibit of a Diplodocus longus asks the docent, "So, how did the dinosaur actually get to the museum?" So begins the journey back in time to the Jurassic period. Using kid-friendly colorful illustrations and a lyrical text, Hartland provides young readers with an overview of how dinosaur bones covered with sand and silt turned into fossils over time and eventually became a museum exhibit.

"The rain comes- dripping, drenching, pouring- and turns into a torrential flood, sweeping the big dinosaur off its feet, down the river to its death."

Each turn of the page reveals another person responsible for bringing the dinosaur to the museum including the excavator, preparator, and curator. Kids will love reading the job titles written on special nameplates throughout the text. For example, the word "paleontologist" is written on the shape of a bone. Each job adds another layer to the story, which told in the style of This is the House That Jack Built. 

The topic, illustrations, and format work well together to create a book with lots of kid appeal. Even though the book is aimed at young readers, Hartland does not shy away from using complex vocabulary and rich language. Many new vocabulary words are defined within the story. Backmatter includes additional fact about the Diplodocus longus, information about fossils and links to dino dig web sites.

If you're looking for the perfect nonfiction read aloud for the K-3 crowd, then look no further.  The text also lends itself to choral reading and readers' theater.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Gaia Warriors by Nicola Davies

Gaia Warriors
by Nicola Davies
Candlewick Press. 2011
ISBN: 9780763648084
Copy checked out from my local public library.
(Grades 5 and up)

Nicola Davies is a zoologist. Her passion for the environment is obvious by what she writes about. Topics she has covered include why animals are a certain size, (Just the right size), why scientist study animal feces, (Poop), animal communication (Talk, Talk, Squawk), and what are those little parasites that live on animal bodies (What’s eating you?) Her writing is accessible and perfect for sharing with students in grades 3 and up. 
My favorite book, the one I read to third graders every summer is Surprising Sharks. I love the last two lines, “But every year people kill 100 million sharks. If you were a shark swimming in the lovely blue sea, the last word you’d want to hear would be...human!”
In Gaia Warriors, Davies turns her pen to educate the middle and high school crowd about Global Warming. The book’s design is attractive and resembles a notebook or magazine, instead of an educational textbook. There are quotes in bold text from famous people who were not afraid to make changes and lots of color photos. Never preachy, (well, a little bit) Davies emphasize that we need to make some changes, big changes, if Earth’s inhabitants are to survive. 
“We all have a choice. We can carry on as usual and fry. Or we can take the opportunity climate change offers us to make a better world for everyone. In other words, we can CHOOSE to change for the better.”
The book is divided into two parts. 
Section One is a guide to some of the basic facts about what is happening to the earth and its climate, written in the form of answers to questions. In addition, interviews with experts or activists further explain the question’s answer.  Questions asked: What is Climate Change?, How do we know that the climate is changing?,  What’s causing climate change? But hasn’t the climate always changed?, Is climate change our fault? If it’s only a few degrees, what difference will it make? What if the Scientists have made a mistake, and we waste money preparing for something that never happens! It’s all to big and scary, and there’s nothing I can do about it!”
In Section Two,, Davies explains:
“So, here’s the problem: Our planet is warming up, and in your lifetimes and that of your children, it’s going to get a lot warmer.”
We can’t go back to the Stone Age because “we can’t support 9 billion people on Stone Age farming and technology. “ The solution is that we have to change.

“We will have to stop driving everywhere, flying everytime we go on vacation, eating whatever we want, and having lots of deep, hot baths. But then, most of the people in the world have never been able to do those things anyway, so it’s only fair that we should stop being so greedy and selfish with the planet’s resources.”
We are then introduced to everyday people who are out there making important and necessary changes in how they eat, get to work, vacation, and many other ways in which they try to use our resources wisely.
The book does include more information, glossary, and index. Unfortunately, it has no documentation as to back the author’s information. Despite that, which is important, this British import is an appealing presentation on Global Warming and its solutions.

I feel like a Gaia Warrior because I can commute to work riding my bicycle 5 months of the year. I acknowledge that I was very, very lucky to find a great job closer to where I live. 
Place this in your display for Earth Day.

And, speaking of saving the Earth, visit this site with high school students. We all know Daryl Hannah from her role as movie actor, but she is also a committed activist for the environment. Click on "Show" and see the many movies, no longer than 5 to 8 minutes, Daryl has made that explores ways to save our planet. They are charming and will inspire students to become Gaia Warriors.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Nonfiction Monday

Welcome to Nonfiction Monday!
We are pleased to host the first Nonfiction Monday of 2012.
Please link your nonfiction reviews using Mr. Linky at the bottom of this post.
We've posted two new reviews for Nonfiction Monday.
Click on the links below to see our reviews, and be sure to check out all of the nonfiction reviews linked at the bottom of this post.

Announcing: The Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge 2012
We are excited to be partnering with Kid Lit Frenzy for the
2012 Nonfiction Reading Challenge
Our goal is to encourage everyone to read more nonfiction picture books this year.
Take the challenge by setting a goal for yourself.
Maybe you want to read one nonfiction picture book each week or each month.
Visit both the Kid Lit Frenzy and The Nonfiction Detecetives blogs
throughout the year for nonfiction reviews and giveaways!
Tweet about the challenge using the hashtag #nfpb2012.
Feel free to add the Non-Fiction Picture Book badge to your web site.

Add your nonfiction review below.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Black and White: the confrontation between Reverend Fred L. Shuttlesworth and Eugene "Bull" Connor by Larry Dane Brimner

Black and White: the Confrontation between Reverend Fred L.
Shuttlesworth and Eugene “Bull” Connor
By Larry Dane Brimner
Calkins Cree, 2011
ISBN: 9781590787663
This book was sent to me by the publisher.
(Grades 7 and up)

February is Black History Month. Soon teachers, students, parents, and day care providers will be coming into my library looking for books on Martin Luther King, Jr, Ruby Bridges, and other titles about the civil rights movement. In a matter of hours, almost every book on the subject will be checked out.  Now we can add another great title to the mix. Black and White by Larry Dane Brimner offers readers another perspective on the events in that dark and ugly time in our nation’s history. Black and White offers readers a deeper understanding of the movement.

The book centers on Reverend Shuttlesworth and his commitment to getting rid of the unfair Jim Crow laws in Birmingham, and the South, during the 1950’s and early 1960’s. Those laws restricted African-Americans the right to work in stores, be policemen, or allow children to attend all-white schools.

The author does an excellent job, in 80 pages, documenting the confrontation between these two larger-than-life men, Fred Shuttlesworth and Bull Connor. Without this immense hatred Connor had towards African-Americans along with his abhorrent actions, the nation might not have ever learned of the struggle going on in Birmingham. (Called Bombingham because of all the bombings taking place there per orders of Bull Connor) Brimner makes it very clear that without Fred’s involvement the equal rights legislation of 1964 might never have happened.

“Without Fred Shuttlesworth, the Birmingham campaign and the role Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., played in it may have taken a vastly different appearance. It was Fred who urged a reluctant Dr. King to shine the light of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference on the city. It was Fred who planned strategy and provided soldiers from the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights for local demonstrations, even as Dr. King was the national voice of the civil rights movement. Fred’s actions in the 1950’s and 1960’s helped pave the way to the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Voting Rights Act of 1965.”

The book’s design is very dramatic, a mixture of black, white, and red. The black text, placed alternately on white and red backgrounds grabs readers’ attention and holds it. Each page is loaded with historical black and white photos that are well captioned. Sidebars have additional information that is pertinent to what is being discussed.

Brimner, an award-winning author of more than 150 books of fiction and nonfiction, is respectful of his subjects. In the author’s note he acknowledges that Eugene “Bull” Connor was the perfect foe for Fred.

“Without his staunch racist and his harsh response to the African American cry for justice, civil rights progress might have taken an even longer time in coming.”

This is an outstanding addition to the growing literature about the Civil Rights Movement. Though this book is for a slightly older audience, still Include it in a display with  The Watson's go to Birmingham, 1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis, Boycott Blues: how Rosa Parks inspired a nation and Sit-in: how four friends stood up by sitting down, both by Andrea Davis Pinkney.

Titanic Sinks! by Barry Denenberg

Titanic Sinks!: Experience the Titanic's Doomed Voyage in this Unique Presentation of Fact and Fiction
by Barry Denenberg
Viking (an imprint of Penguin Group), 2011
ISBN: 9780670012435
Grades 5-8

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

Titanic books are quite popular with the readers in my library, and I'm predicting a surge in Titanic nonfiction book requests in 2012. In case you haven't heard, April of 2012 marks the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the infamous ship. James Cameron's blockbuster movie starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet will be re-released in April of 2012, and dozens of new Titanic books will be published this year.

Titanic Sinks! by Barry Denenberg stands out as a highly engaging look at the historic event. The book blends fact and fiction as it details the events leading up to one of the greatest disasters of modern time. The story is told through magazine articles and journal entries written by fictional reporter, S.F. Vanni, while on board the ship. Even though there are fictional elements, this is truly a nonfiction books. Denenberg researched the event thoroughly and provides source notes and an extensive bibliography.

The magazine articles begin in 1910, two years before the Titanic set sail on its maiden voyage. Readers learn about The White Star Company and how the Titanic and its sister ship, Olympic, were built. Kids who love facts and figures will enjoy reading the pages about Titanic's statistics:

Number of Furnaces- 159
Largest Whistle Ever Made
Cost- 7.5 Million Dollars

Through Vanni's journal entries, readers learn about the inner workings of the ship along with the social activities of First Class passengers. Black and white photographs are used effectively throughout the book to give readers a glimpse into life aboard the ship. After striking the iceberg, an hour-by-hour report details the sinking of the vessel. Readers will be interested in the notes from the publisher featuring updates of what happened after the Titanic sunk. The update describes what happened to White Star Chairman, J. Bruce Ismay, who withdrew from society after heavy scrutiny by the media and the public.

Titanic Sinks! provides readers with a up-close look at one of the most famous disasters of the twentieth-century. It's sure to attract the attention of middle grade readers making it a solid addition to  libraries and classrooms.

CYBILS- Nonfiction Short Lists

We recently had the wonderful opportunity to serve as first round panelists for the Children's and Young Adult Bloggers' Literary Awards or CYBILS. Louise judged the middle grade and young adult nonfiction books, and Cathy judged the nonfiction picture books.

For months we read, read and re-read the nominated titles. There were four panelists in Louise's group and seven in Cathy's, with each person living in a different part of North America and each panelist hosting their own book review blog. Email and Google Docs were our primary modes of communication as we evaluated each book using the CYBILS criteria: literary merit and kid appeal.

After weeks of evaluating, discussing, and debating the nominated titles, our work is complete. Here are the short lists for middle grade & young adult nonfiction books and nonfiction picture books. (We have linked each title that we reviewed in 2011.)

CYBILS Short List: Middle Grade and Young Adult Nonfiction (In alphabetical order)

How They Croaked: The Awful Ends of the Awfully Famous by Georgia Bragg

Into the Unknown: How Great Explorers Found Their Way by Land, Sea and Air
by Stewart Ross/Stephen Biesty

The Notorious Benedict Arnold by Steve Sheinkin

CYBILS Short List: Nonfiction Picture Books (in alphabetical order)
All the Water in the World by George Ella Lyon

Bring on the Birds by Susan Stockdale

 I Feel Better with a Frog in My Throat: History's Strangest Cures by Carlyn Beccia

The books on the short lists are now being evaluated by round two judges, and the winners will be annonced on Valentine's Day.