Two intrepid librarians

Two intrepid librarians review the best nonfiction books for children

Monday, March 30, 2015

The Case for Loving by Selina Alko

The Case for Loving: the fight for interracial marriage
By Selina Alko; Illustrated by Sean Qualls and Selina Alko
Arthur A. Levine Books: an imprint of Scholastic, Inc. 2015
ISBN: 9780545478533
Grades 5 thru 12.
I borrowed this book from my local public library.

Richard Loving was a caring man; he didn’t see differences.                              
There was one person Richard loved more than the rest. Mildred Jeter was part African-American, part Cherokee.  

Ever since Jacqueline Woodson won the National book Award prize for Brown Girl Dreaming and the 2015 ALSC book awards were announced in January, the importance of diversity has been an ongoing topic of conversation. (A Crossover Year for Diversity). Now, adding to the list of excellent informational books about the fight for equality comes, The Case for Loving: the fight for interracial marriage written and illustrated by husband and wife Selink Alko and Sean Qualls.

The book begins in 1958, telling the true story of Richard Loving, a fair-skinned boy, and Mildred Jeter, a girl whose skin was “a creamy caramel” who wished to be married. They were denied that right because in their home state of Virginia it was illegal for two individuals of different races to marry. They were so much in love Richard and Mildred knew they had find a way to tie the knot.

And there was. By crossing the state lines into Washington, D.C. were the law allowed interracial marriage. At the ceremony, in front of a few friends and family, nobody objected when Richard said, “I do,” and Mildred said, “I do,” too. The Lovings were officially pronounced man and wife!

Richard and Mildred were courageous. Knowing it could mean imprisonment they still set up housekeeping in their hometown of Central Point, Virginia. Eventually, they were arrested for unlawful cohabitation. Richard and Mildred left Virginia and didn’t return until nine years later, 1967, when the Supreme Court ruled in their favor (Loving vs Virginia). Finally, the Lovings, with their three children, had won the right to their love and could return home to Virginia.

Qualls and Alko, both celebrated authors and illustrators, decided to collaborate on this project because the topic is so personal. As a mixed-race couple, Alko states in her author's note, I found it hard to imagine that just decades ago couples just like us not only faced discrimination, but were told by their government that their love was unlawful. The illustrations, done mostly in earth tones using mixed media paint (gouache and acrylic), collage, and colored pencil on bristol board mirrors the text and radiates happy emotions. In the note about the art Alko shares, Just like a marriage is the joining of two people, the illustrations for this book could not be achieved individually, but only by Sean and me working together.

The Color of Loving is an important addition to any collection. This book celebrates the right of two individuals who love each other deeply, and their right to marry regardless of their race. Be sure to include The Color of Loving with other books about the Civil Rights Movement and marriage equality. The book offers children another opportunity to see the immense struggle that has taken place over the years for equality that, unfortunately, still continues to this day.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Egg: Nature's Perfect Package

Egg: Nature's Perfect Package  
by Steve Jenkins and Robin Page
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015
ISBN: 9780547959092
Grades K-3

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

Louise and I have been on the lookout for the best nonfiction books of 2015. So far this year (as in past years)  biographies and history books outnumber science books by a large margin. However, there is good news! The nonfiction duo of Steve Jenkins and Robin Page have released a new science picture book for the K-3 crowd.

Egg: Nature's Perfect Gift provides young readers with an overview of eggs including sizes, egg design, incubation, and locations where animals lay eggs. The first two pages show a variety of creatures that lay eggs: the banana slug, tarantula, skink, and crow. Dozens of animals are shown throughout the book carrying eggs, eating eggs, and protecting their eggs.

The illustrations are classic Jenkins- cut and torn paper collage in a variety of colors and textures.  On several pages eggs are illustrated in their actual sizes, and silhouettes are also used to show scale. Each illustration is accompanied by a caption that includes interesting egg facts. For a slim picture book Egg packs a lot of facts into each page.

"When she spawns, a female blue crab may release as many as eight million eggs into the water."

Readers who are interested in nature will spend time poring over the additional animal facts in the back of the book. Pair Egg: Nature's Perfect Package with An Egg is Quiet by Dianna Hutts Aston

Click here to view how Jenkins and Page researched, wrote and illustrated Egg.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Fatal Fever Blog Tour and Giveaway

Fatal Fever: Tracking Down Typhoid Mary  
by Gail Jarrow
Calkins Creek, 2015
ISBN: 9781620915974
Grades 5 and up

We received copies of the book from the publisher.

We are thrilled to take part in the Fatal Fever blog tour today! As part of the tour we will give away one copy of the book. (See below.)

In Fatal Fever, Gail Jarrow masterfully describes how Dr. George Soper tracked down Mary Mallon, a cook in the New York area, who had been unknowingly spreading typhoid fever to people around her. This exciting nonfiction text reads like a mystery as Soper and his team attempt to locate and contain the spread of the deadly disease at the turn of the 20th century.

Louise's Thoughts
Based on our criteria for high quality nonfiction, Gail Jarrow’s Fatal Fever: Tracking Down Typhoid Mary is right up there at the top. This narrative nonfiction is well-organized, contains lots of historic photos that are well-captioned, and includes important back matter: author’s note, glossary of scientific words, bibliography of books & websites for further reading, source notes, index, and my favorite, a timeline. What really makes Jarrow’s book stand out is the writing. Jarrow, as she did in Red Madness, expertly weaves in historical details with scientific information to make this an exciting read.

I especially enjoyed the history behind many of the precautions we take for granted today that new discoveries in the early 1900, such as washing our hands before preparing foods and creating water purification standards to keep our drinking water from becoming contaminated with animal and human waste. I felt sorry for the woman that would become known throughout history as Typhoid Mary. Mostly, her inability to fully comprehend that though she was very healthy her body still contained high levels of the typhoid bacteria that caused many to become sick and even die.  

I know several middle school students who will find Fatal Fever: Tracking Down Typhoid Mary an exciting read.

Cathy's Thoughts
I was captivated with the story of Dr. Soper and Mary Mallon from the opening paragraphs. Gail Jarrow hooks readers by starting the book with an exciting event. In the first chapter, Mallon is located by public health officials in 1907 who suspect she was a typhoid carrier, and she runs away and hides in closet.

"Mary shut the door behind her an crouched down. She didn't know it, but she wasn't alone in that cramped, cold closet. Deep inside her body, billions of deadly microorganisms were hiding, too" (p. 9).

Jarrow then provides readers with background information about typhoid fever, how it was spread, and its impact on communities, before bringing the story back to Mary Mallon, a carrier of the disease. The author's extensive research is evident in the detail and quotes used to tell the story. The numerous photographs and primary documents (a handwritten letter from Mary Mallon, health notices, and telegrams) help to paint the picture of the seriousness of the typhoid epidemic between 1900-1937.

History buffs and science-minded readers alike will enjoying learning how Dr. George Soper investigated typhoid outbreaks in different parts of the U.S.  Fatal Fever would make an excellent text to read in middle school or high school classes and could provide topics for debate. Many connections to modern diseases such as Ebola could be made along with the idea of an individual's rights vs. public health and safety.

Fatal Fever Book Giveaway
One winner will receive a copy of Fatal Fever: Tracking Down Typhoid Mary. (U.S. addresses only)

Giveaway Rules
Complete the form below to enter.
One entry per person
You must be 13 years or older to enter.
Entries will be accepted until 11:59 p.m. EST on Sunday, March 22nd.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Spectacular Spots

Spectacular Spots 
by Susan Stockdale
Peachtree, 2015
ISBN: 9781561458172
Grades PreS-2

The reviewer received a galley from the publisher.

Susan Stockdale, author and illustrator of Stripes of All Types and Bring on the Birds, has a new informational picture book for very young readers.

Spectacular Spots features spotted creatures in their natural habitats. Each page includes a colorful acrylic painting with a few words of rhyming text on the bottom of the page, making the book accessible to emergent readers. Readers will enjoy reading about animals that are familiar (snakes, owls and turtles) and even a few that are not familiar such as the quail.

"Crawling crabs 
and munching bugs.
Charging cheetahs, 
creeping slugs."

The text is short, but Stockdale does not shy away from using rich vocabulary words such as "strutting," "grazing" and "flair." A two-page spread in the back of the book provides facts about each animal featured in the book. For example, the spots on the sea slug warns predators that it's poisonous. Turn the page, and you will find twenty different spotted patterns that readers can try to identify for fun.

It may appear to be a simple book, but there is a lot packed into this beautiful picture book. Spectacular Spots can read by an adult to a child, it may be read aloud in a story time setting, and early readers will enjoy reading the rhyming text on their own. It may also serve as a jumping off point for readers who are interested in learning about science and animals.

Visit Susan Stockdale's website to view examples of artwork from the book.