Two intrepid librarians

Two intrepid librarians review the best nonfiction books for children

Thursday, January 30, 2014

2014 Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Award

View of Philadelphia from my hotel room.

I recently returned from ALA's Midwinter Conference in Philadelphia where I had the pleasure of serving on the 2014 Sibert Medal Committee. I was seated with the other members of the Sibert Committee during the ALA Youth Media Awards announcement. The excitement was contagious as audience members (mainly librarians, reviewers, and publicists) cheered, "oohed" and "ahhed" with the announcement of each winning title. The rumor is true... members of the Sibert committee flapped our arms like parrots when we stood to be recognized.

The Robert F. Sibert Medal for most distinguished informational book for children

2014 Sibert Medal
Parrots Over Puerto Rico by Susan L. Roth and Cindy Trumbore and illustrated by Susan L. Roth

2014 Sibert Honor Books

A Splash of Red: The Life and Art of Horace Pippin by Jen Bryant and illustrated by Melissa Sweet

Look Up! Bird-Watching in Your Own Backyard by Annette LeBlanc Cate

Locomotive by Brian Floca

The Mad Potter: George E. Ohr, Eccentric Genius by Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan

I would like to thank Louise for keeping our blog running, for her thoughtful reviews of 2013 titles over the past year, and for her support while I served on my first ALSC awards committee. Now that my work with the 2014 Sibert Medal committee is complete, I am able to review new nonfiction titles on the blog. I'm excited about a number of 2014 nonfiction titles I saw while I was in Philadelphia. Look for those reviews in upcoming months.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Nonfiction News- January 2014

It's an exciting time of year for book awards. Here are some awards you may know and some that may be new to you.

The Cook Prize
The Bank Street Center for Children's Literature has named its finalists for the 2014 Cook Prize for best STEM picture books. Third and fourth grade students are invited to help choose the winner.

The ALA Youth Media Awards will be announced live from Philadelphia next Monday at 8:00 a.m. Viewers may stream the announcements live. 

ALA's Notable Children's Books committee will be discussing books from this list during ALA's Midwinter Conference later this week. The list contains fiction, nonfiction and poetry published in 2013.

School Library Journal's Battle of the Books announced this year's contenders. Two nonfiction titles made the cut. The Animal Book by Steve Jenkins and March: Book One by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell.

Round two judges are currently reading and deliberating for the Children and Young Adult Literary Bloggers' Award (CYBILS). Winners will be announced on February 14th.

Calling Caldecott Ballot Now Open
The Horn Book's Calling Caldecott blog has opened the ballot for the first round of voting until 9 a.m. on Tuesday. Click here to see access the ballot.

Mock Sibert Award
Two blogs, Kid Lit Frenzy and Unleashing Readers, have announced their picks for Mock Sibert Award. 

Friday, January 17, 2014

Angel Island by Russell Freedman

Angel Island: Gateway to Gold Mountain
By Russell Freedman; Chinese poems translated by Evans Chan
Clarion Books. 2014
ISBN: 9780547903781
Grades 7 to 12
I received a copy of this book from the publisher

Award-winning author, Russell Freedom, a master at writing nonfiction, again broadens our understanding of American history.

America is a nation of immigrants. People still arrive daily from all over the world with one thing in common; they come for a chance at a better life: The American Dream. Both of my grandfathers were immigrants from Italy and Canada, respectively. The majority of immigrants from Eastern Europe, until 1954, were processed through Ellis Island in New York City. Those half a million people coming to our western shores, between 1910 to 1940, were mostly from China and other Asian countries. They were processed at the Angel Island Immigration Station located on Angel Island in San Francisco Bay. It was called, “the other Ellis Island”, or “the Ellis Island of the West.” Freedman offers readers an accessible, informative history of Angel Island and its role in the Chinese immigration story. 

It was the California Gold Rush of 1848 that brought young men from China to America. By 1853, some 25,000 Chinese immigrants had reached the gold fields. But these men, hoping for a better life, were met with hatred and violence. To prevent too many Chinese from sharing in the wealth, the United States enacted exclusion laws towards only the Chinese. While awaiting their fate at the Angel Island Immigration Station the Chinese expressed their fears and anguish in poems brushed or carved on the interior walls of the detention center buildings. 

These emotional poems, many translated and placed within the narrative, were forgotten until by chance a California park ranger, Alexander Weiss, decided to venture into a “two-story wooden structure” that was scheduled for demolition. Recognizing the historical importance, Weiss alerted the Asian American community who launched a campaign to save the building.

For more than twenty days I fed on wind and tasted waves.
With luck, I arrived safely in the United States.
I thought I could land in a few days.
How was I to know that I would become a prisoner
suffering in this wooden building?

In Angel Island, Freedman conveys the misery along with the determination, while placing the Chinese immigration experience firmly in US history by referencing actual historic events from that era. Scattered throughout the book to complement the text are historic black & white photos, and endpapers showing an enlarged picture of how the Chinese characters looked carved on the walls of the station. Back matter includes source notes, bibliography, acknowledgements, picture credits, and index.

Visit the California State Parks website to learn more about Angel Island. 

Here are a few nonfiction books about the California Gold Rush(there were quite a few). Gold! Gold from the American River! By Don Brown, The California Gold Rush by Dennis B. Fradin, How to Get Rich in the California Gold Rush: an adventurer’s guide to the fabulous riches discovered in 1848 by Tod Olson, and The California Gold Rush by Linda Jacobs Altman. 

Fiction books about the Angel Island: The Dragon’s Child: a story of Angel Island by Laurence Yep and Landed by Milly Lee. 

Monday, January 13, 2014

Handle with Care

Handle with Care: An Unusual Butterfly Journey 
by Loree Griffin Burns
photos by Ellen Harasimowicz
Millbrook Press, 2014
Grades 2-6

Reviewed from an electronic galley sent by the publisher.

It's no secret, Louise and I are fans of Loree Griffin Burns. In 2010 we coordinated a Mock Newbery program for readers in grades 3-6, and we included The Hive Detectives on the reading list. We reviewed Citizen Scientists and named it one of the top ten math and science books of 2012. I was excited when I learned a new book by Burns would be released in 2014.

In Handle with Care, Burns turns her attention to butterflies, but this is not your typical informational book about butterflies. The story begins at the Boston Museum of Science where a package has arrived. Inside the box is Blue Morpho butterfly pupa. The pupa traveled to Boston from a butterfly farm in Costa Rica. In a clear, accessible narrative accompanied by up-close, colorful photographs, readers learn how farmers care for caterpillars and butterflies at the El Bosque Nuevo farm. The farm raises butterflies for museums where visitors can see them in live exhibits.

Handle with Care is a teacher's dream. It's the kind of book that kids will be eager to pick up on their own for pleasure reading, and it would be an excellent book to use in science classes. Students in elementary school will be able to read it independently and understand the concepts presented. Back matter includes a glossary, bibliography, index and information about visiting a live butterfly exhibit.

Several years ago I visited the butterfly garden at the Boston Museum of Science. I was in awe of the gorgeous butterflies, but I never thought about how they got to the museum. Now I know!

Photo taken by Cathy at the Butterfly Garden at the Boston Museum of Science.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Searching for Sarah Rector

Searching for Sarah Rector: The Richest Black Girl in America 
by Tonya Bolden
Abrams Books for Young Readers
On shelves January 7, 2014
ISBN: 9781419708466
Grades 5 and up

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

It's turning out to be a stellar year for nonfiction books for children, and it's only January. One of those amazing nonfiction titles from 2014 is Searching for Sarah Rector by Tonya Bolden.

I love books that introduce me to a topic that was previously unknown to me, and Searching for Sarah Rector is a prime example. The story centers around a black child named Sarah Rector who lived in the early twentieth-century. Rector's great-grandmother was a slave owned by Chief Opothole Yoholo of the Creek tribe. When the U.S. government forced Native American tribes off their land onto Indian Territory, their slaves traveled with them. This meant that Sarah and her family, who were living on Indian Territory, were considered Creek citizens.  At the turn of the century, each individual living on Indian Territory was awarded 160 acres of land in Oklahoma as part of a government allotment. In 1907, at the age of five, Sarah Rector became a landowner. She had no idea that the land she owned was full of oil, and that by the age of twelve she would become a very wealthy young lady.

Bolden thoroughly researched the story of Sarah Rector and how her money was managed by a guardian appointed by the court. The story gets even more intriguing when newspapers published false reports that Rector was missing and may have been murdered by unscrupulous people who wanted her wealth. This rumor proved to be false and Bolden uses is as an example to show readers how unreliable news organizations could be before reporters could travel by air, highway or use telephones to access information. The newspaper articles prompt W.E.B. Dubois, a founder of the NAACP, to investigate Rector's situation to make sure she is safe and that her money is protected. Booker T. Washington heard about Sarah and invited her to attend his Tuskegee Institute, but Sarah stayed with her family in a home she had built for them.

The design of Searching for Sarah Rector is outstanding. Primary documents such as maps, photographs, township allotment charts, legal documents and newspaper clippings are thoughtfully placed throughout the book. The placement of theses visual elements is well-done so that the flow of the story is not interrupted. Back matter is comprehensive and includes an author's note, glossary, source notes, and an index.

If you're a history buff or work with children who are interested in stories from the past, you'll want to add Searching for Sarah Rector to your list of books to read this year.