Monday, May 26, 2014

Women Heroes of World War I & Reporting Under Fire

Women Heroes of World War 1: 16 remarkable resisters, soldiers, spies, and medics 
by Kathryn J. Atwood
Women in Action series
Chicago Review Press. 2014
ISBN: 9781613746868
 -- and
Reporting Under Fire: 16 daring women war correspondents and photojournalists
by Kerrie Logan Hollihan
Women in Action series
Chicago Review Press. 2014
ISBN: 9781613747100
Grades 8 and up
This reviewer used copies that were sent by the publisher.

We all know war is dangerous. Not only for the soldiers doing the fighting, but also for those who go underground to work as spies or resistance fighters to being on the front lines as a reporter. Though I have only seen these two entries in the Women in Action series, I was impressed with how well the books cover the topics in an engaging writing style that immediately draws readers in.

Using dialogue, direct quotes, document and diary experts, Women Heroes of World War I tells the true stories of 16 women from around the world who served their countries during their time of war. The book is divided into four sections: Resisters and Spies, Medical Personnel, Soldiers, and Journalists. At the beginning for each section, Atwood includes historical background information that gives readers a full understanding of what was happening at the time. Though most names will be unfamiliar to many, they were to me -- Edith Cavell, Marthe Cnockaert, Louise de Bettignies, Flora Sandes -- I did recognize American mystery writer Mary Roberts Rinehart. The fast-paced narratives recounts the suspense-filled stories of these exceptional women, many who would be caught and executed, fighting for freedom. 

Reporting Under Fire is similar in format as it recounts the remarkable exploits of 16 women who risked their lives to bring back the scoops from the front lines. The book is divided into six sections: World War I, 1914-1918; Between World Wars, 1920-1939; A Second World War, 1939-1945; A Cold War, 1945-1989; Ancient Peoples, Modern Wars, 1955-1985; A Challenge That Never Ends, 1990-Present. Some of the women included are Henrietta Goodnough, aka Peggy Hull, Louise Bryant(her time with husband John Reed is the story of the film, Reds), Dorothy Thompson, Janine di Giovanni, Robin Wright, and Martha Raddatz. Also, Martha Gellhorn, considered one of the greatest war correspondents of the 20th century, and photographer Margaret Bourke-White.  

Hollihan's narrative is exciting and sheds light on not only the dangers these women faced, but their struggles to be accepted in a field historically dominated by men. 

Back matter for these books include maps, historical black & white photographs, epilogue, glossary, notes, sidebars, bibliography, and index.

Each of the women portrayed in these books were as different as they could be. Some might have been more clever or more gifted in their field, yet their commitment to their ideals is inspiring. Their stories are worth reading, both for they role in our history, and for the opportunities they made possible for the next generation of adventurous young women.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Summer Reading!

As summer approaches, school children across the country are getting ready for vacation and library summer reading programs are kicking into high gear. We've compiled a list of some nonfiction books that will inspire children to think, question and observe the world around them during the summer months. Click on the links below to read our reviews of the books.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Mysterious Patterns: Finding Fractals in Nature

Mysterious Patterns: Finding Fractals in Nature  
by Sarah C. Campbell
photographs by Sarah C. Campbell
and Richard P. Campbell
Boyds Mill Press, 2014
ISBN: 9781620916278
Grades K-3

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

Quality math nonfiction books for K-3 readers are in high demand, and the latest work by Sarah C. Campbell is going to make educators and librarians very happy. This informational picture book told through a series of photographs provides young children with an introduction to the math concept of fractals. Campbell was inspired to write the book after a librarian suggested she turn her attention to fractals. She researched the book by accessing online courses taught by Professor Michael Frame of Yale.

Using numerous photographs, Campbell shows how Benoit Mandelbrot discovered fractals by observing patterns in nature. Fractals have "smaller parts that look like the whole shape." Trees, broccoli, and lightning are examples. The book clearly explains a complex topic in an interesting manner that young children will be able to comprehend.  Children who are inspired by the topic will enjoy the page near the end which shows readers how to create their own geometric fractals.

Pair Mysterious Patterns with Swirl by Swirl: Spirals in Nature or Growing Patterns: Fibonacci Numbers in Nature.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Red Madness by Gail Jarrow

Red Madness: how a medical mystery changed what we eat
by Gail Jarrow
Calkins Creek. 2014
ISBN: 9781590787328
Grades 7 to 12
I checked a copy of this book out from my local public library.

There was a time in U.S. history when the flour and cereals that were consumed were not fortified with Niacin (B3). In this superior nonfiction title,  Gail Jarrow shares a medical mystery of how doctors worked round the clock for years (1902-1938) to try and figure out the cause of this mysterious disease called pellagra and their race to find a cure. Organized chronologically, the book begins on March 1902 with the first documented case of pellagra and ends with discovery of vitamin P-P  (nicotinic acid) in 1937 by Conrad Elvehjem and the decision by the government in 1938 to begin enriching flour with B-complex vitamins - nicotinic acid, thiamin, and riboflavin.

Pellagra was caused by poor diet. It affected people who were poor, often farmers and mill workers, who could not afford fresh fruits and vegetables, milk, eggs, and animal protein. Instead, what they ate was the 3-M diet: biscuits, cornmeal, corn grits, and molasses syrup.  Pellagra left people weak and disfigured. In the final stages of the disease came insanity and death. In 1914, Mississippi had 11,000 pellagra cases, and more than 1 in 10 pellagrins died.

This book is well researched. Jarrow weaves descriptions from actual cases taken from public health reports, newspapers, and studies from that time throughout the chapters. Black & white photos are plentiful, some showing the individuals stricken with the horrible disease. Back matter includes frequently asked questions about pellagra, glossary, a timeline, a bibliography of websites, source notes, bibliography, and index. In the author's notes, Jarrow shares the steps taken in researching and writing her book. 

Read a review with the author at SLJ

The complexity of the text and the many historical details that are woven in the book make this an excellent read for high school students studying American history. Pair it with Jim Murphy's An American Plague: the true and terrifying story of the yellow fever epidemic of 1793 or Outbreak: plagues that changed history by Bryn Barnard, 

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Common Core IRL: Baseball Edition

It's time for another installment of Common Core: IRL  (In Real Libraries), and we've turned our attention to baseball.  Our goal in writing this series is to shed light on quality books for children that educators can use in the classroom to help address the standards. The books reviewed on the four blogs feature books about baseball that increase in text complexity. Visit all of the blogs to read the reviews and learn how to use the books with students. 

We Are the Ship: The Story of Negro League Baseball 
by Kadir Nelson
Hyperion, 2008.
ISBN: 9780786808328
Grades 5-8

In every generation there are movers & shakes, individuals who speak out to try to bring about social change. In the world of publishing there are those who write to ensure African Americans are represented in children's literature. There are many writers who come to mind including Virginia Hamilton, Rita Garcia Williams, Walter Dean Myers, Andrea Davis Pinkney, Christopher Myers, and Kadir Nelson. Over the past decade, Kadir Nelson has used his talent as a writer and artist to teach children about important people and events from African American history.

In the large-format informational book, We are the Ship, Nelson describes the formation of the Negro League and how it provided those with a passion and talent for baseball with a venue to play. The story is narrated by an unnamed ballplayer who, according to Nelson, represents "the voice of every player." Nelson traces the start of the league by Rube Foster in 1920. The book features several players from the Negro Leagues and ends with Jackie Robinson as he joined the major league in 1947. Nelson's stunning, full-page illustrations convey the emotions of the players and bring history to life.

Common Core Connections
  • Middle grade readers will immediately be drawn into the story of We Are the Ship as the narrator looks back upon his days in the Negro Leagues. This narrative style lends itself to examining point of view. Teachers could ask students in sixth grade to determine the author's point of view or purpose and "explain how it is conveyed" in the book.  R.I. 6.6.
  • Teachers could also ask students to identify the central idea of the narrative and "how it is conveyed through particular details." R.I. 6.2

Click here to view the video.
  • The Common Core State Standards want students to integrate information presented in different formats. Pair We Are the Ship with this video about the Negro Baseball League. Have students synthesize the information from the book with what they learn from the video. R.I. 6.7 

Learn more by visiting the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum website, which offers teacher resources, player biographies, and a photo archive.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Eye to Eye: How Animals See the World

Eye to Eye: How Animals See the World 
by Steve Jenkins
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014
ISBN: 9780547959078
Grades K-5

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

Readers will be mesmerized by Eye to Eye from the moment they pick up the book. The latest informational picture book from Steve Jenkins focuses on the eyes of animals, as you can see from the twelve eyes on the cover.

At first glance,  I was expecting the 32 page book to be a slim survey of animal eyes, but I was wrong. Jenkins teaches readers about four different kinds of eyes and how they have evolved over time. Upon opening the book, readers are met with an up-close, full-page illustration of a red-crowned Amazon parrot staring back at them as Jenkins introduces the topic of the book. The book is organized by eye type with the simplest eyes in the front to the most complex eyes near the back.  Using his signature cut paper collage, Jenkins illustrates eyes of various animals while also providing readers with interesting facts about the creatures. Did you know the tarsier's eyeball is larger than its brain?

The picture book format and book design with large font and lots of white space make this an ideal book for young readers, yet older children will be attracted to the richness of the content. An example is the page near the back that shows the evolution of the eye over time from the simplest form (eyespot of the starfish) to the most complex (camera eye of the dog). Back matter includes a page of animal facts, glossary and bibliography. Don't miss this latest masterpiece by Steve Jenkins, and don't be fooled by the size of the book. It covers complex information that will teach readers about the structure and evolution of eyes and could serve as a springboard for readers who wish to learn more.