Two intrepid librarians

Two intrepid librarians review the best nonfiction books for children

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Nonfiction Notes: 2013 ALA Conference Preview

I'm getting ready to attend the American Library Association Annual Conference in Chicago this weekend. My bags are packed, and I have a stack of Nonfiction Detectives business cards ready to go (thanks to Louise!).  I have several committee meetings on my schedule, but I'm also planning to spend some time on the exhibit floor and at various sessions. I'll be on the lookout for what's new in nonfiction children's books; and I hope to meet many authors and illustrators in the exhibit hall.

Will you be in Chicago fo ALA?
Here are some events (with a focus on nonfiction) that you won't want to miss...

Friday, June 28th
6:00-6:30 p.m. Tanya Lee Stone will sign copies of Who Says Women Can't Be Doctors?: The Story of Elizabeth Blackwell at the Macmillan booth.

6:00- 7:00 p.m. Carla Killough McClafferty will be at the Lerner book signing copies of her latest Fourth Down and Inches: Concussions and Football's Make-or-Break Moments.

6:00-7:00 Sally M. Walker will sign copies of Their Skeletons Speak: Kennwick Man and the Paleoamerican World at the Lerner booth.

Saturday, June 29th
8:30-10:00 a.m. Program: Multicultural Programming for Tweens and Families

10:30-11:00 a.m. Jessie Hartland will sign copies of Bon Appetit! The Delicious Life of Julia Child at the Random House Children's Books.

10:00-11:00 a.m. Seymour Simon will sign books at the StarWalk Kids Media booth.

11:00-12:00 Janet Halfman will be at the Lee & Low booth signing copies of her new picture book Seven Miles to Freedom: The Robert Smalls Story.

11:30-12:00 Book Buzz Theater featuring Random House

11:00-12:00 Melissa Sweet signs Caldecott Honor, A River of Words, at the Eerdmans Publishing booth.

12:00-1:00 Graphic Novel Stage- "Comic Books and Civil Rights History" Martin Luther King and the Montgomery Story

12:30-1:30 Meet Tanya Lee Stone, author of Courage Has No Color, at the Candlewick booth.

1:00-2:00 Deborah Hopkinson will sign Titanic: Voices from the Disaster at the Scholastic booth.

1:00-2:00 Melissa Sweet with sign A Splash of Red: The Life and Art of Horace Pippin at the Random House Children's booth.

1:00-4:00 2014 Notable Children's Book Committee Meeting (Hilton Chicago)- The committee will discuss the titles on this list.

2:30-3:30 Cynthia Levinson will sign copies of We've Got a Job at the Peachtree Publishing booth.

3:00-4:00 What's Cooking @ ALA: Cool Kids Cook with Kid Chef Eliana on the What's Cooking Stage

3:30-4:30 April Pulley Sayre will sign copies of Here Come the Humpbacks! at the Charlesbridge booth.

4:00-5:00 Meet Kadir Nelson, author and illustrator of Nelson Mandela, at the Harper Collins Children's Books booth.

Sunday, June 30th
8:30-9:30 Auditorium Speaker Series: Temple Grandin Author, animal science specialist, and advocate for people with autism, Temple Grandin, will be the featured speaker on Sunday morning.

8:30-10:00 Creating Out-of-This-World Children's Programming with NASA Materials

10:00-11:00 Andrea Davis Pinkney and Brian Pinkney will sign Hand in Hand: Ten Black Men Who Changed America (winner of the Coretta  Scott King Author Award) at the Disney Hyperion booth.

11:15-12:15 Christy Hale will sign Dreaming Up: A Celebration of Building at the Lee & Low booth.

11:30-12:00 Ignite Sunday Session: STEM: Save the Library, Save the World 

12:00-1:00 Meet Derf Backderf, author of My Friend Dahmer, at the Abrams booth.

12:00-1:00 Meet Vladimir Radunsky, illustrator of On a Beam of Light: A Story of Albert Einstein, at the Chronicle Books booth.

2:30-4:00 It's Time for the Feud!...Family Feud! Librarians and authors will compete in a Family Feud-style game show at the Hyatt Regency.

3:00-4:00 Brian Floca will sign copies of Locomotive! at the Simon & Schuster booth.

4:00-5:00 Andrea Davis Pinkney and Brian Pinkney will sign Martin & Mahalia: His Words, Her Song at Little, Brown for Young Readers.

5:45-10:00 Newbery, Caldecott, Wilder Awards Banquet- If you don't want to shell out the money for a banquet ticket, you may sit in chairs in the back of the room and listen to the acceptance speeches. It's bound to be a magical night as we celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Caldecott Medal.

Monday, July 1st
8:30-10:00 ALSC Awards Presentations- The Sibert, Geisel, Batchelder and Carnegie Awards will be presented at this time.

11:00-12:00 Steve Sheinkin will sign copies of Sibert Medal winner, Bomb, at the Macmillan booth.

11:00-12:00 Robert Byrd will sign copies of Sibert Honor book, Electric Ben, at Penguin Young Readers Group.

11:30-12:00 Book Buzz Theater featuring books from Lerner Publishing Group

1:00-3:00 Charlemae Rollins President's Program: Think With Your Eyes (Visual Thinking Strategies & Children's Picture Books)

1:30-2:15 Conversation Starters: Unprogramming: Recipes for School-Age Program Success

2:45-3:30 Conversation Starters: Going Up the Down Slide: School and Public Libraries Partner to Reduce the Summer Slide

Monday, June 24, 2013

More Summer Reading Suggestions

As school librarians are winding down and enjoying their summer vacation, things at the public library are ramping up. Why? Everyone comes in to stock up on summer reading. I love it, and I know the kids do too. “Finally! I can sit and read whatever I want and not worry about doing homework,” said Sam, a 7th grader at the local middle school. 

What I enjoy are all the requests to recommend a good book.

Here are a few books that I suggest time and again. 

Bodies from the Ash : life and death in Pompeii
by James M. Deem 
Houghton Mifflin. 2005

An archaeological mystery that details the eruption of Mount Vesuvius and the burying of Pompeii in 79 A.D. by looking at the skeletons that were unearthed. 

The Emperor’s Silent Army: Terracotta Warriors of Ancient China
by Jane O'Connor.
Viking. 2002

Before she became famous for her Fancy Nancy series, author Jane O’Connor wrote an  fascinating nonfiction title describing the archaeological discovery in 1974 of thousands of life-sized terracotta warrior statues found in Northern China. 

Cathy reviewed these two last year. They are hardly ever on the shelves.

Puffling Patrol 
by Ted and Betsy Lewin 
Lee & Low. 2012

by Claire A. Nivola
FSG. 2012

Any title in the Scientist in the Field series are great to recommend. One of my favorites is:

The Hive Detectives:  chronicle of a honey bee catastrophe
by Loree Griffin Burns
Houghton Mifflin. 2010

Bee scientists from around the country are rushing to discover the cause of bee colony collapse disorder. 

Pair this with

UnBEElievables :  Honeybee poems & paintings
by Douglas Florian
Beach Lane Books. 2012

Snuggle up and share these enchanting poems with other bee lovers. Or, read them aloud to the bees in your yard. I'm sure they will love them. buzz.

Stay tuned for more great recommendations.

Happy Reading!

Friday, June 21, 2013

Nonfiction News

Nonfiction News 
June 2013

Over at Interesting Nonfiction for Kids, Elizabeth Rusch details the the field research she did for her latest book. Eruption!: Volcanoes and the Science of Saving Lives. Talk about dedication; you won't believe what Elizabeth went through to see a volcano up close. Read Elizabeth's post: On How Research Can Make You Throw Up.

School Library Journal recently posted highlights from SLJ's Day of Dialog in New York. Picturing the World: Informational Picture Books for Children was this year's theme, and five authors and illustrators of children's nonfiction took part in the panel discussion. Naturalist and author/illustrator, Jim Arnosky, spoke about the inspiration for his work and writing for children. Arnosky's lastest book is Shimmer & Splash: The Sparkling World of Sea Life.

Betsy Bird (aka: The Nonfiction Dialogue Stickler of Doom) takes on the issue of invented dialogue in nonfiction for children following Marc Tyler Nobleman's Horn Book article, Danger: Dialogue Ahead!

Want to motivate kids to pick up nonfiction books for pleasure this summer? Show them book trailers. It can be tricky finding book trailers for nonfiction books as Travis Jonker pointed out in December in his blog post, A Humble Demand: More Nonfiction Book Trailers Please.

It looks like Travis is getting his wish. Here's a book trailer for Bomb: The Race to Build- and Steal- the World's Most Dangerous Weapon by Steve Sheinkin.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Summer Reading Suggestions

Summer officially begins on June 21st, and it's the perfect time for children on vacation to get in some pleasure reading. Here are some nonfiction titles that young readers will enjoy reading during their free time this summer.

Friend: True Stories of Extraordinary Animal Friendships 
by Catherine Thimmesh
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2011

Kids love looking at photographs of animals; Friends will please  animal lovers. The book features unlikely animal friendships such as a tawny owl and basset hound and a giraffe and ostrich. Each photo is accompanied by a paragraph about the friendship and a stanza from a poem. This is not a book that is meant for deep reading or for learning in-depth information. It's purely for pleasure, and it may inspire readers to check out more animal books from the library.

Look Up!: Bird Watching in Your Own Backyard  
by Annette LeBlanc Cate
Candlewick Press, 2013

Summer is the perfect time to get outside and do some bird watching. This picture book with comic book elements will inspire young readers to Look Up! See Louise's review from earlier this year.

Pop! The Invention of Bubble Gum 
by Meghan McCarthy
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2010

Kids will want to blow bubbles after they read McCarthy's nonfiction picture book about how bubble gum was invented. Readers will enjoy the cartoon-like illustrations as they learn about the history of chewing gum and how a worker at the Fleer Company created Dubble Bubble gum. You'll also learn why bubble gum is traditionally pink.

Top Secret: A Handbook of Codes, Ciphers, and Secret Writing
by Paul B. Janeczko
Candlewick Press, 2004

Readers will enjoy reading under the covers with a flashlight and a notebook as they learn to make their own codes and secret messages. Janeczo provides readers with the history behind various codes and ciphers, and he gives readers many opportunities to crack the codes in the book.

You Never Heard of Willie Mays?!
by Jonah Winter, illustrated by Terry Widener
Schwartz & Wade, 2013

Summer is a time for playing and watching baseball. Sports fans who also love history won't want to miss the latest picture book biography by Jonah Winter. Read Louise's review of You Never Heard of Willie Mays?!

For other summer reading suggestions...

Horn Book compiled an extensive list of fiction and nonfiction titles for summer reading.

School Library Journal's On the Common Core column recently focused on reading nonfiction for pleasure.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Where on Earth? by DK

Where on Earth?: Geography as you’ve never seen it before!
ISBN: 9781465402455
All ages
I borrowed a copy of this book from my local public library.

I fell in love with Geography not because of a GPS, but because of maps in print format. My father, who was a traveling salesman, always had a copy of the Rand McNally Road Atlas within arms reach. I knew every state's capital, major highways, national parks, rivers and lakes, and their terrain. I would sit for hours dreaming of all the places I’d go when I was a grown up. (I still have a long list yet to see) 

DK’s Where on Earth: Geography as you’ve never seen it before! will stir a child’s excitement for maps. It is packed with facts, statistics, graphics and a collection of 80 specially commissioned world maps that will show readers not only where things are, but will help them understand why tectonic plates cause volcanoes and earthquakes, what is the most common cause of shipwrecks, and what can cause a hurricane to form.

The information is divided into six chapters: Land, sea, and air; Living world; People and planet; Engineering and technology; History; Culture. The design is similar to other DK books; heavy on photo and light on text. Each chapter begins with an introduction. Let’s look at Culture. 

The word “culture” is a broad idea and includes the values, beliefs, and behavior of a society, or group of people. Culture includes many things, including customs, language, religion, music, art, food, and clothing. Some points of culture are traditional, having survived virtually unchanged for centuries. Others are short-lived, such as fashion styles and trends in pop music. Photos around the page offers brief examples to support the above statement.

Now turn the page to see a world map of languages and where they are spoken. Other maps within Culture show holy places, tourism, art, statues, festivals, television, stadiums, car racing, roller coasters, and national flags. 

This is a good book for browsing and can be used as an introduction to the variety of topics it covers. Each chapter can be connected with other nonfiction and fiction titles. 
Partner the chapter on 'People and planet' with Peter Menzel's book, Material World: a Global Family Portrait. 

Friday, June 7, 2013

Dreaming Up: A Celebration of Building

Dreaming Up: A Celebration of Building 
by Christy Hale
Lee & Low Books Inc., 2012
ISBN: 9781600606519
Grades K-4

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

The winners of the 2013 Boston Globe-Horn Book Awards were announced recently. The nonfiction winner this year was Electric Ben. Two books were name nonfiction honor books: Dreaming Up: A Celebration of Building and Hand in Hand: Ten Black Men Who Changed America.

If you haven't had a chance to read Dreaming Up, you need to seek out this book. It's amazing! This nonfiction picture book by Christy Hale incorporates poetry, architecture and children at play. Don't be fooled by the young boy pictured on the cover, Dreaming Up will appeal to a wide range of readers from grades K-4.

Each two-page spread contains a poem accompanied by a mixed media illustration on the left side of the page. The illustrations depict children building with material such as cups, cardboard boxes, sand, Legos, and playing cards. The right side of the page includes a photograph of a building related to the poem and the illustration.

Not only do the illustrations and photographs show specific architectural designs, but the poems take the shape of the design as well. For example, the Sclera Pavilion in London is shown near the end of the book. "Vertical slats of wood were used to create this circular building." In the illustration, two boys are pictured glueing popsicle sticks to a round container. The poem on that page is written in vertical lines that reflect the same structure as the Scelra Pavilion.

Dreaming Up would make an ideal read aloud. With the combination of poetry, architecture, creative play, and artwork, readers will find many aspects to discuss in a group setting. Children will also enjoy learning more about the architects and their designs in the pages at the back of the book. Readers may become inspired to experiment with design as they build their own structures out of everyday material.

It's fitting that ALSC included Dreaming Up in the Lego: Read, Build, Play activity guide and reading list:

Visit Christy Hale's web site to view pages from the book.

Other reviews of Dreaming Up:
Great Kid Books
Book Dragon
Wrapped in Foil
STEM Friday

Monday, June 3, 2013

Becoming Ben Franklin by Russell Freedman

Becoming Ben Franklin: how a candle-maker’s son helped light the flame of liberty
by Russell Freedman
Holiday House. 2013
ISBN: 9780823423743
Grades 6 and up
I checked this book out of my local public library

Benjamin Franklin was born in colonial Boston on January 17, 1706. 

We remember him as a printer, editor, and publisher; a community organizer; a scientist and inventor; a statesman, humorist, and philosopher; and an influential writer. His contributions to society include a library, a university, a fire company, a philosophical society, the lightning rod, the Franklin stove, and bifocal glasses. And he helped give birth to a new kind of nation, ruled not by a hereditary monarch but by “We, the People".

In Becoming Ben Franklin, the award-winning Russell Freedman, himself considered one of our most significant writers of juvenile nonfiction, has penned a moving account of the life of one, if not the, greatest American. 

We read about Franklin and how, in 1723, at age seventeen, he ran away from home to live in Philadelphia. In 1728, he opens his own printing shop with a partner and at the age of 27, published the first copy of Poor Richard’s Almanack, a publication that was widely popular and which allowed him, in 1748 at age 42, to retire.

After retiring Ben Franklin would spend the rest of his life, when not inventing something, a busy man.  The public, now considering me a man of leisure would appoint him to various position in the civil government.

Franklin was a faithful British subject, until a series of taxes (No Taxation without Representation!) changed his mind, making him one of the most outspoken advocates of the American Revolution. He was happily married for forty-five years, had three children and was a loving and attentive grandfather. During his later years, after signing of the Constitution of the United States, Franklin devoted the rest of his life attempting to eliminate slavery. 

Freedman incorporates Franklin’s own words, whenever possible, throughout the narrative which allows Franklin to tell most of his own story. The book’s design places historic photos and engravings on every page including Franklin’s drawing considered to be America’s earliest original political cartoon.

Freedman excels at making history accessible and interesting for readers. This book has a timeline, source notes, picture credits, selected bibliography, and index.

Read our review of Freedman's The Boston Tea Party