Two intrepid librarians

Two intrepid librarians review the best nonfiction books for children

Monday, October 19, 2015

The Great Monkey Rescue

The Great Monkey Rescue: Saving the Golden Lion Tamarins
by Sandra Markle
Millbrook Press, 2015
ISBN: 978-1-4677-8030-8
Grades 3-6

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

Over the past few years we've reviewed  The Case of the Vanishing Golden Frogs and The Case of the Vanishing Little Brown Bats by Sandra Markle. These titles have proven to be high interest books for students in my school because Markle presents the information in the form of a mystery that needs to be solved. Markle's latest nonfiction book for middle grade readers isn't a mystery, instead the story is structured in the form of a problem and solution.

The Great Monkey Rescue describes the plight of the endangered golden lion tamarins in the Brazilian rain forest. The engaging narrative is perfect for upper elementary readers in grades 3-5. Markle describes how the number of golden lion tamarins dwindled to 200 in the 1960s due to deforestation. Tamarins live in the canopy of the forest and travel across the high branches on the trees. When the forest was cleared for cattle pastures and roads, tamarins lost their homes. Map on pages 10-11 outlines the Atlantic Forest in Brazil for readers. Large, colorful photos of tamarins in their natural habitat are effectively placed throughout the book. Captions are chock full of additional information about tamarins.

The book highlights how scientists tried breeding golden lion tamarins in zoos, but when the tamarins were released into the wild they didn't survive. They ate poison fruit and made their homes near colonies of Africanized bees. Eventually scientists had success with integrating tamarins bred in captivity with tamarins born in the wild. As the population of golden lion tamarins increased, their need for forests increased as well. One problem was that small forested areas that were left were like islands surrounded by pastures. The solution was to reforest the area by planting trees that could serve as a bridge between the forests. This would allow the tamarins to walk along the tops of the tress to access another forest. The story ends on a happy note as the population of golden lion tamarins has increased to 3,200.

The Great Monkey Rescue is a well-designed, accessible science book that will encourage readers to think like scientists and find solutions to environmental problems. Back matter includes an author's note, glossary, timeline, and list of additional resources. Readers who are inspired to take action and help the golden lion tamarins may want to check out Save the Golden Lion Tamarins.

Click here to preview the book on the publisher's site.

Friday, October 9, 2015

I Will Always Write Back by Caitlin Alifirenka & Martin Ganda with Liz Welch

I Will Always Write Back: how one letter changed two lives
by Caitlin Alifirenka & Martin Ganda with Liz Welch
Little Brown. 2015
ISBN: 9780316241311
Grades 6-12
I borrowed this book from my local public library.

When her English teacher announced a pen pal program, seventh grader Caitlin thought the crazy-sounding place of Zimbabwe sounded intriguing. I’d never heard of Zimbabwe. But something about the way the name looked up on the blackboard intrigued me. 

She chose the country that, though difficult to pronounce, seemed exotic. In her letter Caitlin is friendly and shares all her favorite hobbies and activities. 
For fun, I like to go shopping at the mall on the weekend. I also like to go roller skating and bowling with my friends. And to eat pizza. What is it like in Zimbabwe?

Little did Caitlin know that this seemly reckless decision would not only change her life forever, but that of her pen pal as well.

Far off in the Mutare, Zimbabwe, Martin is the smartest student in his tiny school, so he is one of ten students who receive a letter from America. To Martin, America is the land of Coca-Cola and the WWF, World Wrestling Federation. Men had big muscles who wore skullcaps and knee-high boots and made lots of money.  Martin was thrilled with his pen pal. He had a friend. In America!

In alternating chapters, readers are pulled in to this amazing friendship that deepens over the six years they corresponded. 

The writers do a wonderful job showing Caitlin’s evolution. At first she is very naive about the cultural differences between her upper middle class life in Pennsylvania and the extreme poverty Martin experiences in Mutare. There are so many things Caitlin takes for granted. From buying a postage stamp to having her picture taken, nearly unobtainable luxuries to Martin. Over time Caitlin grows from a self-centered girl of privilege into someone who does all she can to offer Martin the chance he needs to reach his goal of attending college in America by sending him money so he can remain in school.

The correspondence begins in 1997 and ends on August 15, 2003 when the two finally meet for the first time at the Philadelphia airport. 

Hearing Caitlin say “You Made It!” when we first embraced made me realize this was real. For so many years, I thought i had conjured her. But here she was, as beautiful as i imagined, but much taller.

This duel memoir is a story of hope and friendship that makes for a compelling read. A great introduction to social activism.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Poet: The Remarkable Story of George Moses Horton

Poet: The Remarkable Story of George Moses Horton 
bu Don Tate
Peachtree, 2015
ISBN: 978-1-56145-825-7
Grades K-5

The reviewer received a galley from the publisher.

Earlier this year Louise reviewed The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch written by Chris Barton and illustrated by Don Tate. Peachtree recently published a gorgeous picture book biography written and illustrated by Don Tate. Poet: The Remarkable Story of George Moses Horton is the amazing story of how one man overcame many obstacles and became a published and well-loved poet in North Carolina in the 1800s.

Upon opening the book readers will see lines of poetry on the endpapers, and it's clear that poetry is central to the theme of the book. Horton had a passion for words as a boy. Tate's accessible, narrative text describes how Horton grew up a slave in North Carolina and taught himself to read using an old spelling book. As a young man, Horton worked in the fields and sold vegetables at the University of North Carolina. He captured the attention of students and professors as he recited poetry from his fruit and vegetable cart. After finding success as a writer publishing his poetry in newspapers and books, Horton's owner refuses to allow Horton to buy his freedom.

The mixed media illustrations (ink, gouache, and pencil) use soft, earth tones. Tate effectively incorporates poetry into the illustrations. He researched Horton's life by reading the poet's autobiography and through research in North Carolina historical societies and universities. In the author's note Tate explains that his goal is to show slavery "as more than just an uncomfortable word." He aimed to demonstrate to readers that Horton is relevant "in their lives today."

Poet: The Remarkable Story of George Moses Horton is a must-buy for school and public libraries. The power of words and poetry rings true, and Horton's perseverance and determination serve as a an inspiration for young readers.

Visit Don Tate's website for more information about Poet and to download the Teacher's Guide.

View the book trailer for Poet.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Fur, Fins, and Feathers by Cassandre Maxwell

Fur, Fins, and Feathers: Abraham Dee Bartlett and the Invention of the Modern Zoo
Written and illustrated by Cassandre Maxwell
Eerdmans Books for Young Readers. 2015
ISBN: 9780802854322
Grades K-5
I received a copy of this book from the publisher.

Abraham Dee Bartlett was born in 1812 in London, England. As a young boy, Abraham was fascinated with animals, especially those with fur, fins, and feathers. A family friend, who owned a collection of wild animals, allowed Abraham to play with the young animals.

But when it was time to put the animals back, he felt sorry for them. They had no place to explore, no place to hide, nothing to play with. They didn’t always get enough to eat, and their keepers sometimes teased them.
Abraham knew he had to find a way to help the animals.

Maxwell does a wonderful job bringing to life the story of the man whose love of all animals would grow up to create the modern zoo. His careful observations of the animals habits allowed him to improve their lives by offering adequate space for them to roam and he understood that a balanced diet was vital to the animals good health.

The very readable text is enhanced by full and sometimes double-page Illustrations created using cut paper collage and mixed media.The end papers are charming and back matter includes an author’s note, bibliography and further reading, and a timeline.

Go here for a discussion guide
Go here to see the book trailer.