Two intrepid librarians

Two intrepid librarians review the best nonfiction books for children

Monday, June 30, 2014

Babe Conquers the World

Babe Conquers the World: The Legendary Life of Babe Didrikson Zaharias 
by Rich Wallace and Sandra Neil Wallace
Calkins Creek (an imprint of Boyds Mill Press), 2014
ISBN: 9781590789810
Grades 4-12

The reviewer received a galley from the publisher.

Most children probably don't realize there was a time when women weren't allowed to play professional sports or when society frowned upon women taking part in athletics. That was before Babe Didrikson paved the way for female athletes. Middle grade and teen readers will be enthralled with the story of Babe Didrikson Zaharias's life in the biography,  Babe Conquers the World.

It is evident the Wallaces did a lot of research for this book. The details they uncovered about Babe's career as a basketball player, Olympic athlete, and amateur golfer will pull readers into the story and keep them engaged. The authors effectively weave quotes into the narrative as they describe the rise of Babe as an elite athlete at the beginning of the the 20th century. Babe faced many roadblocks along the way, but her determination, grit, and passion helped her break down barriers for herself and other women. However, the authors do not shy away from writing about Babe's flaws, including her difficulty in being part of a team.

Black and white photographs and primary documents interspersed throughout the book give readers a view into Babe's life and into what life was like in the early 1900s. Back matter includes a glossary, timeline, frequently asked questions, source notes, and bibliography.

Babe Conquers the World would make an exciting read aloud that could lead to rich discussions in the classroom or at home.  Readers who are inspired by Babe's story may also enjoy Amelia Lost by Candace Fleming, Wilma Unlimited by Kathleen Krull and Mermaid Queen by Shana Corey.

Be sure to read Sandra Neil Wallace's post on the Kidlit Celebrates Women's History Month blog.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Boundaries: how the Mason-Dixon line settled a family feud & divided a nation
Sally M. Walker
Candlewick Press. 2014
ISBN: 9780763656126
Grades 9-12
I borrowed a copy of this book from my local public library.

Life is interesting. Several months ago, before I knew about Boundaries by Sally M. Walker, I stumbled across an article on NationalGeographic’s news site “Saving the Mason-Dixon Line” by Bijal P. Trivedi.  Written in 2002, Trivedi writes of how two present day surveyors have spent over ten years locating and documenting each and every stone laid by Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon during the years 1763-67.  The stones that mark this infamous boundary, after 200 years, are weathering, damaged, vandalized or missing altogether.  You can imagine my delight to then find a book, by Sally M. Walker, no less, that would give me the history on the creation of the Mason-Dixon Line and some background information on the men who completed this scientific feat. As Walker explains in her introduction, The story of the Mason-Dixon Line encompasses many different boundaries, some hundreds of years old. The history of this line begins with a country, the religious persecution of its own people, and a fierce property dispute.

The book is well documented, and though it explains what led up to the decision to create a clear boundary marker between Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Delaware, Walker does an excellent job explaining the scientific method the surveyor’s used to ensure the boundary was accurate. Complementing the text are many historic photographs. Sidebars are distinguished from the main text by placing the words in italics. The inclusion of an author’s note, index, source notes, bibliography, and index make this an excellent example of quality nonfiction.

Boundaries is a great addition to units studying American History or Astronomy.

Listen to the song, Sailing to Philadelphia that Mark Knopfler wrote after reading Thomas Pynchon’s novel, Mason & Dixon.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Great News!

We were informed yesterday that The Nonfiction Detectives blog was named one of the 
Top 15 Kidlit and YA Book Review Sites by Children's Book Insider.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Nonfiction Happenings at ALA's Annual Conference

Louise and I are headed to Las Vegas later this week to attend the American Library Association's Annual Conference. Look out Las Vegas... the Nonfiction Detectives haven't been together at an ALA Annual Conference since we traveled to New Orleans in 2011. We're looking forward to meeting authors, networking with other librarians, and chatting with publishers about upcoming titles.

If you're headed to ALA, here are some nonfiction-related events that you'll want to be sure to attend.

Saturday, June 28

10:00-11:00 Meet Sibert Honor winner, Brian Floca at the Simon & Schuster Booth (302-303)

10:15-10:45 Book Buzz Theater- Lerner Publishing Group's Hottest Fall 2014 Titles

10:30-12:00 Poster Session: Get the Facts! Nonfiction, Informational Reading and Literature for Youth

3:30-4:30 Meet Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor winner, Kadir Nelson at the Harper Collins Children's Booth (503). He'll be signing copies of Nelson Mandela.

Sunday, June 29

10:30-11:30 Common Core IRL: In Real Libraries (Room S228)
Louise and I will be taking part in a panel presentation with Alyson Beecher from Kid Lit Frenzy and Mary Ann Sheuer from the Great Kid Books blog. The session will focus on how to bring high quality nonfiction texts into classrooms to address Common Core State Standards.
Click here for more information.

1:00-2:00 Pop Top Stage: John Lewis and Andrew Aydin will discuss their graphic novel,  March: Book One.

Monday, June 30

10:00-10:45 Meet Sibert Medal winners, Susan L. Roth and Cindy Trumbore, at the Lee & Low Booth (626)

10:00-11:00 Meet Sibert Honor winners, Melissa Sweet and Jen Bryant, at the Random House Book (543)

10:30-10:45 Book Buzz Theater- DK 2014: What's New in Nonfiction

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Grandfather Gandhi

Grandfather Gandhi 
by Arun Gandhi and Bethany Hegedus
illustrated by Evan Turk
Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2014
ISBN: 9781442423657
Grades 2-6

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

Readers of all ages will be inspired by this beautiful picture book memoir co-written by the grandson of Mahatma Gandhi. In Grandfather Gandhi, Arun Gandhi recalls leaving South Africa to live near his grandfather in an ashram in India.

The first person narrative allows readers to see the story from the point of view of a young Arun who is worried about living up to his family's famous name.  Turk's gorgeous, mixed media illustrations use watercolor, cut paper collage, cotton, yarn, pencil and tinfoil on a background of paper stained by tea. The illustrations effectively capture the emotions of the story. As Arun has a difficult time adjusting to life in India, the illustrations change to reflect his frustration. When Arun and his grandfather share a meaningful moment during a walk, Turk illustrates their shadows cast over a golden landscape.

The power of the story comes when an angry Arun lashes out at his playmates during a soccer game then seeks out his grandfather for comfort. Gandhi shares an analogy that anger is like electricity, and we have the ability to choose between turning our anger into lightning or a lamp.

"Arun, we can all work to use our anger, instead of letting it use us."

The strong central message makes this a powerful book to read aloud to children of all ages. The book's website even has a "Live Your Life as Light" pledge that readers may take.

Visit the Grandfather Gandhi website to access discussion guides, a reader's theater script and to view a video interview with the author and illustrator.

Other reviews:

Friday, June 13, 2014

Plant a Pocket of Prairie by Phyllis Root

Plant a Pocket of Prairie
Written by Phyllis Root; Illustrated by Betsy Bowen
University of Minnesota Press. 2014
ISBN: 9780816679805
Preschool and up
I borrowed a copy of this book from my local public library.

When Laura Ingalls and her family were traveling from the Big Woods in Wisconsin to their Little House on the Prairie, over 40 percent of the United States was covered in native prairies. But, like everything else, these beautiful ecosystems are highly endangered. 
Less than one percent of native prairies remain, making them one of the most endangered ecosystems in the world. 
To help children see what Laura saw on her wagon ride west, and to understand how one change can affect every other part, author Phyllis Root encourages children to recreate this habitat by growing native prairie plants in their own backyards.

Plant a pocket of prairie in your backyard, boulevard or boxes on a balcony. If you plant a pocket of prairie, who might come?

Based on the attitude of “if-you-plant-it-they-will-come,” this cumulative tale educates readers on how each native plant planted will attract a bird or insect that will then attract something else.

Plant goldenrod. A Great Plains toad might flick its tongue at goldenrod soldier beetles. Not enough prairie for you yet? Plant cup plants. A thirsty chickadee might come to drink from a tiny leaf pool.

The beautiful Illustrations made from woodblock prints captures the wide-open feel of the prairie. There is a lot of back matter that includes an author's note, instructions on how to plant a pocket prairie, a list of animals and plants that inhabit a prairie, and other helpful resources.

Because I love promoting nonfiction as a way to round out the reading experience, I would hand Plant a Pocket of Prairie, along with The Prairie Builders: reconstructing America's lost grasslands written by Sneed B. Collard III to fans of Little House in the Prairie series by Laura Ingalls Wilder and Sarah, Plain and Tall by Patricia MacLachlan. Try these titles too: Ellse's Bird by Jane Yolen, and for just fun, Out on the Prairie by Donna M. Bateman.

Friday, June 6, 2014

The Boston Globe-Horn Book Awards

The 2014 Boston Globe-Horn Book Awards were announced last week in New York. The awards are divided into three categories: fiction, nonfiction, and picture books. Three books were recognized in the nonfiction category, and we have reviewed all three titles on The Nonfiction Detectives blog this year. Click here to view the entire list of winners.

Nonfiction Winner

Nonfiction Honor Winners

If you're in New England in October, you may want to attend the awards ceremony at Simmons College in Boston. Click here for more details.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Common Core IRL: Colonies and the American Revolution

In the latest installment of Common Core IRL: In Real Libraries, we focus our attention on books about  Colonial America and the Revolutionary War. 

Be sure to visit the following blogs this week to read all of the reviews.

 Great Kid Books: Life in Colonial America (gr. 3-5)

 Kid Lit Frenzy: Primary Sources (gr. 4-6)

 The Show Me Librarian: Historical Fiction (gr. 1-6)

Great Kid Books: Digital Resources (gr. 4-6)

George vs. George: The American Revolution As Seen from Both Sides  
by Rosalyn Schanzer
National Geographic, 2004.
60 pages
ISBN: 0792273494
Grades 5-6

Upper elementary classes usually study Colonial America and the American Revolution. Many books about the American Revolution are written from the point of view of the patriots who were upset with taxes and the way Great Britain governed the colonies. However, George vs. George is a more balanced look at the events leading up to the American Revolution and the consequences of the war. By writing from different points of view, Schanzer gives children a more accurate view of complex historical events.

The narrative writing style and picture book format of George vs. George make it a text that could be read aloud or used as an independent reading book in social studies classes. The lengthy bibliography and source notes might lead readers to other sources for further reading and research including a study of primary vs. secondary sources.

Classroom Connections:

R.I. 5.6 Analyze multiple accounts of the same events or topic, noting similarities and differences in the point of view they represent. 

Rosalyn Schanzer provides readers with two different points of view: one from George Washington and the rebels and the other from King George. George vs. George outlines the events leading up to the war while offering a balanced view of these events. Readers could compare and contrast the lives and motivations of King George to George Washington in a written assignment or in an oral presentation or speech. Readers might also identify how each side reacted to events and battles and use evidence from the text to explain why this was the reaction. For example, after Washington's troops defeated the British at Saratoga, "King George tried so hard to make merry in public that he embarrassed all his friends" (p.43).

R.I. 5.1 Determine two or more main ideas of a text and explain how they are supported by key details; summarize the text.

The book is organized into chapters that progress chronologically. Readers could identify the main ideas from each chapter using evidence from the text to support their thinking. Schanzer's folk art style illustrations painted on a textured canvas incorporate cartoon elements including speech balloons with actual quotes from historical figures. These quotes connect directly to the events on each page and may help readers interpret how different sides of the conflict viewed the events.

R.I. 5.3 Explain the relationships or interactions between two or more individuals, events, ideas, or concepts in a historical, scientific, or technical text based on specific information in the text.

Readers may explain the relationship between the British government to the government of the American Colonies based on the information on pages 16-17. Students could create their own graphic organizers comparing the government of England to the government of the American Colonies. Students could also explain the relationship between the Sugar Act & Stamp Act, the Boston Tea Party, and the closing of Boston Harbor. Some sections of the book provide readers with opportunities to compare and contrast, such as the equipment, size and tactics of British troops vs. Rebel troops.

Schanzer packs a lot of information into the pages of this informational picture book that will help readers see the American Revolution from different perspectives. By sharing texts that examine historical events from different points of view, we help our children become critical thinkers and consumers of information.